Orange Bowl Pick

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Orange Bowl Pick

Florida State

vs.

Michigan

12/30/16

Before the season, no one would’ve been surprised if this was one of the matchups in the Playoff. But now, with Michigan losing two of its final three Games and Florida State having three losses, the two will meet in the Orange Bowl. Played in Miami, the Wolverines are -7 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Everything was lining up for Michigan to make the Big Ten championship Game and then grab a playoff spot, but they had a costly loss at Iowa and then unfortunate double-overtime loss at Ohio State in the regular season finale. The Wolverines only had Four true road Games and had trouble in all of them outside of the Rutgers beat down. Michigan is undoubtedly a good team, but weren’t as flashy in Games against decent teams. They took care of Penn State 49-10, but that Game was just before the Nittany Lions found an identity.

On the other side, Florida State may have found its identity after winning its final Four Games of the season. The Seminoles really struggled early and a lot of that had to do injuries, but losing by 43 points to Louisville wasn’t great. They battled through the middle of their Schedule with a late loss to UNC and at least kept it respectable against Clemson in a three-point loss. Any FSU backer will look to the close Games they had against top competition, outside of that Louisville Game.

The best unit in this Game is the Michigan defense and that will provide for the most interesting matchup with Deondre Francois quarterbacking Florida State. The Wolverines dominated weaker competition, but again, didn’t face many great offenses all season. They struggled against Colorado allowing 28 points, but then the Buffaloes lost their starting quarterback and couldn’t move the ball.

FSU provides a dynamic that Michigan hasn’t seen most of the season, starting with one of the best running backs in the country, Dalvin Cook. Cook looks set to be one of the few elite RBs in the country that is choosing to play in the bowl Game and that could help his draft value if he finds success against a top defense. Cook has rushed for at least 100 yards in eight of the last nine Games, is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and has 11 touchdowns in the last five Games.

Michigan did have some holes against the run in road Games and it’s a wonder if that will show up here. As for the freshman Francois, he has steadily improved this season, but now faces one of the best secondaries with Jabrill Peppers and JOurdan Lewis leading the way. Francois has faced some decent defenses in the ACC and then Florida in the finale, but this will probably be his toughest test yet. In losses, Francois was sacked a ton and against Taco Charlton and company, that could be an issue again.

But the same can be said about the other side of the ball with the nation’s leading sacker in DeMarcus Walker (15) wrecking havoc. Part of Michigan’s struggles toward the end of the year came because its offensive line had issues and that could come up again. At the least, quarterback Wilton Speight will be fully healthy after busting his collarbone and playing hurt (and horribly at times) against Ohio State.

Speight could be the difference against a defense that still won’t have top safety prospect Derwin James. FSU’s defense had its issues throughout the year, but noticeably improved as the season went along, holding their final Four opponents to 54 points total. Michigan runs the ball plenty between De’Veon Smith (810 yards) and Chris Evans (565 yards) among others, but in the losses, couldn’t get anything going. against this FSU front, if that’s an issue, it will be up to Speight to move the ball. That’s not a bad thing with his options (Amara Darboh, Jake Butt, Jehu Chesson), but that that gives some room for a Florida State cover.

The Wolverines are 4-1 ATS in their last five non-Conference Games and haven’t covered in their last Four following an ATS win. They destroyed Florida in their bowl a year ago, but this is obviously a better FSU team. The Seminoles are 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 bowl Games, but 1-5 ATS in their last six neutral-site Games. However, FSU has lost its last two bowl Games, two years ago by 39 points (to Oregon) and by 14 points (to Houston) last season.

Our Pick – This won’t be a popular pick as we are going with Michigan and you’d be hard pressed to find many who are willing to lay the number in this one againt Florida State. We get that. Specifically because any statistical handicapping edges you can point to in this one can be neutralized by simply referring to Schedule strength. Florida State played the more difficut Schedule, hands down.

Yards per point differential is measured by taking the defensive yards per point number and subtracting the offensive yards per point number. The higher the defensive number, the better. The lower the offensive number the better. So, a very good team on both sides of the ball will have a higher yards per point differential.

Here are the top 5 teams in college football this year, using the differential number to rank.

1) Michigan +9.5
2) Alabama +9.3
3) Ohio St +8.6
4) Auburn +8.4
5) Washington +7.6

Those are some pretty good football teams in the top 5, eh? Look who’s #1. That’s right, the Michigan Wolverines. You’d have to list all the way down to #54 before you found Florida state with a differential of +1.2.

Now, there are two ways to look a Schedule strength.

1) The team that compiles top ranked stats yet played a weaker Schedule is in fact a Paper Tiger and not really as good as the numbers indicate.

2) It’s not the teams fault they played a weaker Schedule and in fact, being so good, they did just what they should have done against the opposition they faced.

We choose #2 in this spot. It’s been Our experience over the years that ranking so highly with these numbers over the course of a college football season is no accident and more times than not indicates that a team really is THAT good regardless of Schedule strength. Boise State teams of the past come to mind. Weak Schedule strength, great numbers and always showed up for Bowl Games.

Not crazy about almost a full TD. Might be best to wait until close to kickoff as we anticipate Florida State money will drop the number some more………Michigan -6.5

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