A day before Friday’s Citrus Bowl, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh mused, “I’ve searched my feelings and I’ve thought long and hard about it. If we win this game, this could be my favorite year in football.”
Mission accomplished: No. 14 Michigan 41, No. 19 Florida 7.
Harbuagh listed a number of personal reasons among why 2015 will go down in his personal record books — working with best friend Jim Minick and son Jay Harbaugh — but this fall will be remembered by the Michigan faithful for reinvigorating the maize and blue brand. Remember, this is a team that pleasantly surprised the college football community when it was competitive in an opening-night loss at Utah. Now, a dozen games later, they were blowing away an SEC division champion in a New Year’s Day game.
To be fair, this wasn’t exactly a full-strength Florida (10-4) team the Wolverines pounded on in Orlando. Jim McElwain surpassed expectations in 2015 by getting the Gators to Atlanta and a New Year’s Day game, but the suspension and subsequent transfer of quarterback Will Grier gutted his offense and stalled his entire time, and consecutive losses to Florida State, Alabama and Michigan by a combined 97-24 proved it.
To be fair to McElwain, he made the most of what he had. Unfortunately for him, what he had meant that drawing up plays like this were about the only way he could find the end zone at all.
The close to Florida’s season (Treon Harris went 8-of-21 for 146 yards with a pick today), though, proves McElwain must spend the next eight months finding and grooming a quarterback or 2016 will not go down as one of his favorites in football.
The Wolverines (10-3) will need to find a quarterback after Jake Rudock left shoes to be filled that are a few sizes larger than most expected when he arrived from Iowa last off-season. The graduate transfer completed his brief Wolverines career by completing 20-of-31 throws for 278 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, plus four carries for 29 yards. But while Rudock leaves, the bulk of a defense (273 yards allowed) and running game (225 yards) returns.
And that’s enough to leave the maize and blue faithful wondering where 2016 might rank on Harbaugh’s list.