Capital One Orange Bowl Preview

Dec. 26, 2016

No. 6 Michigan (10-2) makes its return to the state of Florida for postseason football as the Wolverines will do battle with No. 11 Florida State (9-3) in the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30. The Wolverines will kick off against the Seminoles in the College Football Playoff bowl game at 8:10 p.m. EST on ESPN from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

The Wolverines started off the season with nine straight victories before falling at Iowa on the game's final play. Michigan rebounded with a victory against Indiana before a season-ending setback at No. 2 Ohio State in double overtime. The Jim Harbaugh-led Wolverines, who have been ranked in the top 10 of the national polls for the entirety of the season, are making their third appearance in the Orange Bowl. The Wolverines have compiled a 1-1 record in their previous two appearances in the Orange Bowl. Michigan lost to Oklahoma 14-6 in the 1976 game. The program's last appearance in the Orange Bowl came in 2000 in which the Maize and Blue defeated Alabama in overtime, 35-34. Overall, U-M will be making its 45th all-time bowl appearance, the 11th highest total all-time among FBS schools. Michigan owns a 29-9-1 advantage over teams currently in the ACC, and boasts a 2-1 mark over ACC squads in bowl games. The Wolverines defeated Virginia Tech in the 2012 Sugar Bowl (23-20 in OT) and North Carolina State in 1994 Hall of Fame Bowl (42-7) and lost to North Carolina in the 1979 Gator Bowl (17-15).

The Seminoles, led by Jimbo Fisher, finished third in the Atlantic Division of the ACC. FSU suffered losses this year against No. 13 Louisville, North Carolina and the playoff-bound No. 2 Clemson Tigers. The 2016 regular season finished much stronger than it began as the Seminoles were 3-2 after the first five weeks of play. Florida State now enters the postseason on the heels of a month of November in which it outscored its final four opponents by a combined score of 145-54. This year marks the Seminoles’ fifth straight berth in a BCS/New Year’s Six/CFP game, and their 10th appearance in the Orange Bowl. Michigan hopes to stop the success FSU has had against Big Ten teams, as the Seminoles are 8-2 all-time and 3-1 against the league in bowl games. FSU most recently beat Wisconsin at the Champs Sports Bowl following the 2008 season.

U-M will be seeking its second all-time victory over Florida State. The Wolverines earned a victory against the Seminoles in a 1986 regular-season match-up in Ann Arbor, and fell to FSU in a regular-season game in 1991. In the 1986 win, the quarterback under center for the Maize and Blue was none other than Harbaugh himself. 





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Michigan ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing (223.3), total yards (439.3) and scoring (41.0), as well as seventh in passing (216.1). Nationally, the Wolverines’ 41.0 points per game rate 12th overall, and their average time of possession of 32:56 is 17th. They also boast averages in seven additional offensive categories that rate among the top 25 nationally, including turnovers lost (6th), fourth down conversions (10th), interceptions (12th), red zone offense (15th), fumbles lost (16th), and sacks allowed (24th). Michigan has jumped on its opponents early and often this season, outscoring teams 287-60 in the first 30 minutes, but Florida State has been quick out of the gates as well, outscoring their opponents 192-160 before halftime. Quarterback Wilton Speight directs the Michigan offense, having completed 62.5 percent of his 293 passes, 17 for touchdowns and throwing only six interceptions. Amara Darbok rates seventh in the Big Ten with 68.8 receiving yards per game, while two-time Big Ten Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year Jake Butt (43.2) and wideout Jehu Chesson (39.1) have combined for nearly 1,000 receiving yards on the year. The potent ground game has found success by committee this year as four Wolverines have tallied more than 400 yards rushing, including De’Veon Smith (810), Chris Evans (565), Karan Higdon (422) and Ty Isaac (417). That foursome has combined for 24 of the team’s 40 rushing touchdowns this year, while Khalid Hill has netted an additional 10 scores near the goal line.

Florida State’s defense ranks sixth in the ACC against the rush (131.3), seventh in total yards (357.2) and scoring (24.4), and eighth in defending the pass (225.9). Just as is the case with Michigan, FSU has impressed on defense this year with its pass rush. The Seminoles lead the nation with 47 sacks, and 15 of those come from NCAA leader DeMarcus Walker, FSU’s senior defensive end and consensus All-American. In addition to his nation’s-best sack total, he has 17.5 tackles for loss and leads the Seminoles in tackles (64), fumbles caused (3) and recovered (2). Josh Sweat (10.0) and Derrick Nnadi (9.5) rank second and third on the team in tackles for loss, respectively, and each have 5.5 sacks on the season. Matthew Thomas is the second-leading tackler on the team with 62 stops to go along with 7.5 TFL and one forced fumble. Sophomore cornerback Tarvarus McFadden earned second-team All-America accolades after finishing the regular season with a nation’s-best eight interceptions, which helped FSU total 14 picks on the year to rank second in the ACC.

On offense, Florida State is third in the ACC in total yards (474.3), fourth in rushing (206.8) and scoring (35.3), and sixth in passing (267.6). Similar to Michigan, FSU loves to control the clock as its average time of possession of 33:31 is tops in the ACC and ranks 12th nationally. The Seminoles have excelled in the red zone this year, boasting the nation’s top scoring percentage (.963) inside the 20-yard line. FSU is paced by a dynamic back in junior Dalvin Cook, who recently earned first-team All-America honors after finishing the regular season with 1,620 rushing yards, 19 total touchdowns and 170.5 all-purpose yards per game. He is sixth in the nation in both rushing yards (1,620) and rushing touchdowns (18), and seventh in rushing yards per game (135.0). Junior offensive tackle Roderick Johnson was named to the All-America Second Team. As dominant as FSU’s defense has been with sacking the opposition, the offensive line has struggled to protect quarterback at times, ranking 109th out of 128 teams with 2.83 sacks allowed per game. FSU freshman quarterback Deondre Francois has been elusive when under pressure, running for 189 yards and four touchdowns. In the pocket he has completed over 60 percent of his 373 attempts for 3,128 yards, with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions to his credit. Travis Rudolph is the team’s leading receiver with 807 yards (67.2 ypg) and seven touchdowns on the year.

Michigan’s defense ranks lists first or second nationally in a number of defensive categories, including passing yards allowed (135.9, 1st), tackles for loss (9.6, 1st), third down conversion percentage defense (.209, 1st), total defense (252.7, 2nd), scoring (12.5, 2nd), sacks (3.67, 2nd), team passing efficiency defense (91.93, 2nd), red zone defense (.680, 2nd), and first downs defense (171, 2nd). The Wolverines are also 13th nationally against the run (116.8) and 26th in turnover margin (+6). With Florida State’s strong ground game, Michigan will look to disrupt the Seminoles by penetrating that line. Michigan’s defense has held eight opponents to less than 85 rushing yards, and has tallied 115 tackles for loss and 44 sacks on the season. U-M’s top lineman is second-team All-American Chris Wormley, who is second in the team with six sacks this year, while also contributing nine TFLs and 39 overall tackles. In just 10 started games this year, Taco Charlton leads the team with 8.5 sacks, having also posted 11 TFLs and a career-high 38 tackles. Linebacker Mike McCray posted a career-best 72 tackles to go along with 12.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and eight pass breakups this year. Michigan’s defense has forced 17 turnovers (12 interceptions and four fumbles) on the year, and Big Ten Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and consensus first-team All-American Jourdan Lewis is the school’s all-time leader in pass breakups (44) and has six career interceptions to his credit. The secondary also fields Channing Stribling, who leads the teams with four picks and 16 pass breakups, and Delano Hill, who has posted 48 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, three interceptions and six pass breakups in 2016. There is no doubt, however, that the anchor of the defense is junior all-purpose contributor and starting linebacker Jabrill Peppers – the Paul Hornung Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy winner and fifth-place finisher in Heisman Trophy voting. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and unanimous All-American leads U-M in tackles-for-loss (16), has contributed four sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

U-M leads the Big Ten and is eighth nationally in punt returns (15.57 avg.), while its four blocked punts lead the nation and its six blocked kicks are third overall. Peppers has 21 punt returns for 310 yards (14.8 avg.) and one touchdown, to go along with10 kickoff returns for 260 yards (26.0 avg.). Peppers’ punt return average ranks fourth nationally. Kenny Allen is a second-team All-Big Ten punter and honorable mention kicker. He has converted all 98 PATs and hit 34-of-42 field goals during his career. Florida State ranks 127th nationally (out of 128) in punt return defense, allowing 21.54 yards per return. The Seminoles are much better in defending kickoffs, having only given up 17.90 yards per return, which is 14th in the country. Logan Tyler handles punting duties for FSU and is 10th in the ACC with 40.6 yards per punt. Kicker Ricky Aguayo is ninth in the conference with a 70.8 field-goal percentage. Kermit Whitfield sits eighth in the ACC with a kickoff return average of 22.9 yards.