Michigan whips Florida in Citrus Bowl
Final: Michigan 41, Florida 7
Key play: Treon Harris’ awful end zone interception
The single dumbest play of the day came from Florida’s freshman signal-caller. On first down, in the red zone, Harris had a chance tie the game in the first half. He was rolling out and looked like he was just throwing the ball away. But Harris, as he often does, tried to make something out of nothing. That something was a jump ball into double coverage. Jarrod Wilson picked it off and that was all she wrote for the Gators against the Michigan defense.
Telling stat: Jehu Chesson’s 118 receiving yards
Florida’s strength was its defensive backfield. Vernon Hargreaves III was supposed to be a lockdown corner capable of shutting down anybody in the country. Well, Chesson took his lunch money. He destroyed Hargreaves on a double move that led to the easiest touchdown throw for Jake Rudock all year. The All-B1G wideout made big catch after big catch in traffic, too. For those that were under the assumption that Chesson didn’t deserve first-team All-B1G accolades, Friday’s performance was an eye-opener. Hargreaves is likely going to be a top-15 pick in the 2016 NFL draft. How much could a performance like that boost Chesson’s draft stock? You can bet he certainly earned himself some money, even if he does return in 2016.
-Peppers doesn’t play, but it doesn’t matter
If you were worried about how Michigan’s defense would perform without its most electrifying playmaker, it likely didn’t last long. Royce Jenkins-Stone and Chris Wormley were seemingly everywhere, making life miserable for Harris and the Gator offense. Michigan didn’t even have to blitz to shut down the Gators. Florida was not a team that was going to exploit Michigan’s defense without Peppers. Channing Stribling and Jordan Lewis are good enough to do the heavy lifting in coverage. It turned out to be a very well calculated move by Jim Harbaugh not to have Peppers play through a hand injury. He didn’t subject his do-it-all redshirt freshman to further punishment, and his defense got back to its midseason form.
–Rudock turned out to be quite the steal
We got this far without really talking about the dominance of the Michigan quarterback. One more time, Rudock showed how much he improved over the course of the season under Harbaugh’s tutelage. He was infinitely better than the guy who took the field against Utah four months ago. On Friday, he had three touchdown passes against one of the nation’s top defense, which pushed his season total to 20. Rudock actually became the second quarterback in program history to reach the 3,000-yard mark. Think of all the great Michigan quarterbacks that came through. Rudock was that good for the Wolverines down the stretch. Not bad for an Iowa reject.
What it means: Harbaugh caps favorite season of football, sets stage for 2016
Usually when you take over a five-win team, there are more downs than ups. There were lows for Michigan this season, but they were few and far between. Harbaugh said before Saturday that if the Wolverines won, it would make it his favorite season of football ever. Well, Michigan ended 2015 getting its 10th win in convincing fashion. More importantly, this victory set the stage for a huge offseason for Harbaugh. Crushing an SEC team — and winning 10 games with Brady Hoke’s team — will put expectations at a new high in the Harbaugh era, especially if he has a strong close to the recruiting season. if 2015 taught us anything in the B1G, it was that the Harbaugh effect is definitely real.