Michigan passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton has spent most of his time before the Peach Bowl in Atlanta in a film room.
His task? Solving a Florida defense that finished the regular season ranked 26th in S&P+.
“We are aware of just the amount of talent that they
have on the defensive side of the ball in particular,” Hamilton said on Thursday. “This is a really good defensive front, arguably the best
that we’ve seen this season. It will be a tremendous
challenge for us to control the line of scrimmage. And
that’s always our goal as an offense, to go out and
control the line of scrimmage, both running the football
and protecting the quarterback.”
The team the Wolverines played this season with the most similar Rushing Defense S&P+ rank is SMU (51st to Florida’s 47th), which bodes well for Michigan. The Wolverines put up 197 yards on the ground against the Mustangs on 41 attempts, a healthy 4.8-yard average.
Senior running back Karan Higdon is skipping the Peach Bowl, and against SMU he sat out with an injury. Junior running back Chris Evans and redshirt sophomore running back Tru Wilson averaged 4.7 and 4.8 yards per carry, respectively.
Sack rate is a more troubling stat for the Michigan offense.
Florida is 30th in sack rate at 2.67 per game. Michigan’s 2018 opponent with the most similar ranking? Notre Dame, at 36th, catching the quarterback 2.58 times a game.
September 1 was a long, long time ago, and the Wolverine o-line seems to have gotten much better over the course of the season, but against Notre Dame, Michigan lost 32 yards on three sacks. Junior quarterback Shea Patterson never looked comfortable in the pocket and the Wolverines dropped their first game of the year.
Add in the fact that redshirt senior right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty is skipping Saturday’s game, and it could be a long day for Michigan’s pass protection. Redshirt freshman Andrew Stueber or true freshman Jalen Mayfield will have to step up if the Wolverines are going to keep Patterson clean.
The Michigan offense was nowhere near the biggest issue against its last opponent, Ohio State, but the Wolverines did allow three sacks against the Buckeyes.
“Right now, to be frank, we have a bad taste in our
mouths,” Hamilton said. “So we are looking forward to the opportunity
to get out there on Saturday afternoon and play some
high-level football. It’s (Florida) an SEC defense. They have a lot of team
speed, really aggressive. They have special
playmakers on all three levels of the defense. As far as the personnel that they have, they have a tremendous amount of talent. They’re similar to the team down south (Ohio State).
Our players are working hard. They’re jumping at the bit to
get out and play the game. It’s been quite some time
since we’ve played a football game.”
Much has been made of how often Michigan has faced the Gators over the last 10 seasons, but according to Hamilton those previous meetings aren’t instructive due to Florida’s coaching turnover:
“They have a different defensive coordinator than what they had last year when we faced this team, so it’s a different scheme. Scheme-wise, they’re probably most similar to Penn State.”
403 yards of offense and a 5.8-yard average (Michigan’s offense vs. Penn State this season)?
Wolverine fans will take that.
The Peach Bowl kicks off at noon on Saturday, Dec. 29.