WHO: No. 11 Florida State (9-3) vs. No. 6 Michigan (10-2)
WHAT: The 83rd Orange Bowl
WHEN: Friday, December 30, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
THE SKINNY: At the beginning of the season, it would have surprised nobody to see the Wolverines and Seminoles meeting in a New Year’s Six bowl. That they’re facing off in the Orange Bowl and not a national semifinal is the mildly startling thing about this postseason matchup after both squads were considered trendy national title picks at the beginning of the year.
Michigan and swashbuckling head coach Jim Harbaugh are in South Florida nearly came close to getting into the playoff but a pair of last second (and overtime) losses kept them out of the Big Ten title game. Instead the team will be looking to cap off another banner year in Ann Arbor under their former quarterback, who actually beat Florida State back in 1986 when he was calling shots from under center. Leading the way this season has been do-everything Heisman finalist Jabrill Peppers, who could be playing his final game in maize and blue and should be featured on both sides of the ball on Friday night.
Standing in the Big Ten powerhouse’s way is a familiar site for those in South Florida. The Seminoles rose all the way up to No. 2 in the country early on but a young team was done in by mistakes during surprising losses to Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson. FSU has bounced back however, and closed strong down the stretch to wind up in the Orange Bowl thanks to their studs on either side of the ball in tailback Dalvin Cook and defensive end Demarcus Walker. Both veterans have contributed to a talented team that has reloaded once again and has a dangerous offense full of game-breaking playmakers like Travis Rudolph and Kermit Whitfield.
It should make for one of the better bowl matchups this season and doubly so with more attention on the game thanks to its shift to Friday night. This is a fun matchup of strength vs. strength as the Florida State offense is one of the best around and Michigan’s defense is the stingiest this side of Alabama. Each coaching staff figures to have a few tricks up their sleeves for this game but in the end, the Wolverines’ defense and ground game help propel them to a close victory over the Seminoles.
THE PICK: Michigan 27, Florida State 24