The 17th ranked Florida Gators will match up against the 11th ranked Michigan Wolverines to start the 2017 season. A lot has happened in the past few days with the suspension of Jordan Scarlett. Also, the Gators announced that Feleipe Franks will be the starter at QB. Michigan’s head coach Jim Harbaugh has been hiding his roster and depth chart from the public but recently released an official roster for the 2017 season. A lot of hype has been built around the game with two top tier programs playing in AT&T Stadium aka Jerry’s World. A lot of eyes will be watching this game so here are five things to watch for in the Florida-Michigan game.
Who steps up for Florida?
The Florida Gators will miss their top two offensive players in Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett due to a suspension for misuse of school funds. With Florida’s top two players out, who will set up in their place and make plays. Sophomore RB Lamical Perine will be the starting running back for the Gators which will be his first collegiate start. Perine will share most of the carries with Malik Davis and Mark Thompson. The sophomore back had a very productive freshman season and is expected to have a better season as Scarlett’s backup. But with Scarlett out, Perine needs to step up and make Michigan respect the run game.
Another player who needs to step up is Josh Hammond. The sophomore receiver will start at the Z which is Callaway’s spot. Hammond had a very good offseason and has received some praise from Jim McElwain. Another player Mac talks a lot about is Freddie Swain. Swain has fully recovered from his shoulder injury and has really impressed the coaching staff. Expect to see a lot of him on Saturday. One more receive that needs to step up is Kadarius Toney. The true freshman is already expected to get a lot of playing time this season but his role has definitely increased with the losses of Scarlett and Callaway. Toney could be used both at wide receiver and running back. McElwain really likes his playmaking ability and needs to get the ball in his hands constantly.
Battle in the trenches
Two years ago, the Michigan Wolverines bullied the Florida Gators in the trenches which led to a blowout win for the Wolverines. The Florida Gators have changed a lot since that game. There are more physical and aggressive in the trenches compared to last year. Martez Ivey and Jawaan Taylor are the two big names on Florida’s offensive line. The Florida coaching staff has created a lot of buzz with the starting offensive lineman saying they could be “a strength” in the offense. The Wolverines are very young and inexperienced at offensive line which could really benefit the Gators who has an experience defensive line. The Gators offensive line will have quite a challenge in the trenches against a talented Michigan defensive line with players like Rashan Gray and Michael Hurst Jr. The trenches could determine the outcome of the game like it did two years ago.
Florida’s WRs vs. Michigan’s DBs
One of the biggest talking points during Florida’s offseason was how talented and good the wide receiver could be this season. The Gators have a lot of talent there with Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond, Brandon Powell, etc. On the other hand, expectations are that the Michigan secondary won’t be as strong as they were last season. Losing stars like Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis is a hard thing to replace and it seems to be an issue for the Wolverines. The Michigan secondary still has talented players but they are very young and inexperienced which could hurt them considering Florida has a veteran receiver group.
Feleipe Franks making his collegiate debut
The highly touted four-star Army All-American QB Feleipe Franks beat out Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire in the quarterback competition. Franks is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the SEC. He is 6’6” and weighs around 240 pounds. Franks’ biggest strengths are his arm strength, confidence, leadership and ability to run. Franks has one of the biggest arms in the country as he can launch a 75-yard bomb on a two-step drop. Everybody knows he’s got the big arm but he isn’t really known for anything else. What most people don’t know is how confident he is. Senior WR Brandon Powell has said that Franks is very confident and talks about the plays he’s going to make before he’s on the field. Franks is a very vocal leader and could run a little. He’s no Lamar Jackson but he can keep plays alive with his legs.
How much of Malik Zaire will we see?
The Florida Gators brought in Notre Dame Grad transfer Malik Zaire to compete for the starting job. Zaire didn’t win the job but that doesn’t mean he’ll be on the sidelines all year long. Florida’s head coach Jim McElwain said Thursday night that Zaire will play against the Wolverines. If Franks is starting, how will Malik Zaire play? Zaire could be used as a wildcat type quarterback to change things up against the Michigan defense. The graduate transfer is known for his legs but he does have solid arm strength and has played against tough competition like LSU and Texas. Kadarius Toney is another guy who could be used in the wildcat. Toney played quarterback all of high school and in the spring camp before being moved to receiver. Without their top two offensive players, Florida will need to get creative to cause problems on Michigan’s defense.