Michigan football: 5 things I want to see from Wolverines Saturday in bowl game
The best thing about Michigan’s bowl game this year is that it gives them one last chance to get rid of the taste from that a bitter season-ending 62-39 loss at Ohio State. The defeat ruined what was a sensational season, and it took away a shot at a Big Ten title and a College Football Playoff berth, which was all there for the taking.
No. 7 Michigan gets No. 10 Florida of the SEC in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, a familiar foe the the Wolverines have seen twice before in the past three years. It’s a different team under first-year coach Dan Mullen, so this will be a challenge, especially with four Michigan players opting to sit out the game ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Michigan is a 6-point favorite in the Noon ET game (TV: ESPN) in Atlanta. Here are five things I want to see from Michigan on Saturday when it hooks up with Florida in the Peach Bowl:
1. A successful running game without RB Karan Higdon
Michigan running back Karan Higdon had a big season, rushing for 1,178 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games. He had a stretch of seven consecutive 100-yard games during the season, and added an eighth later. He’s one of four Wolverines sitting out the game to prepare for the NFL Draft — and let’s be honest, to avoid injury — and he’s going to be missed. Backup Chris Evans, who rushed for 403 yards all year, will get the call now, so it’s going to be interesting to see if the Wolverines can have some success on the ground.
2. Offensive line makes a statement in season finale
One of the best stories in 2018 was the dramatic improvement of Michigan’s offensive line all season long. Once considered the weak link of this team, they stayed healthy most of the year and did a great job in helping the running game enjoy all its success. They also did a great job of giving quarterback Shea Patterson time to throw. Because the line struggled for much of the Ohio State game, it means a lot to see them end the season on a high note against Florida.
3. Shea Patterson gets 2019 preparations started
Quarterback Shea Patterson announced last week that he was returning for the 2019 season at Michigan. That was huge news, and it sets up Michigan for another big season. Having one last good game would be nice for offseason confidence. The biggest thing I’d like to see from him is more accurate passing and hitting a few big plays with his dangerous wide receivers.
4. Front seven plays at high level without Gary, Bush
Defensive lineman Rashan Gary and linebacker Devin Bush are projected high first-round picks in the NFL Draft in the spring, so the fact that the two of them are sitting out the game isn’t surprising. They will be missed, of course, but Michigan has proven that it has plenty of depth in those two position groups as well. Gary missed some of the season with a shoulder injury, and when he was out, the Wolverines never missed a beat. It will be interesting to see if the front seven can dominate in this game as much as it has in the previous two against Florida, both UM victories.
5. Don Brown’s defense erases all memories of Ohio State
Michigan had the No. 1 defense in the country for most of the season before getting blitzed by Ohio State in the ugly 62-39 loss that ended the regular season with a thud. Defensive coordinator Don Brown, considered one of the best assistants in the country, would love to change the narrative in the bow game against a Florida offense that has its own issues. A low-scoring game would be a great way to head off into the offseason.