The Michigan Wolverines began the 2017 college football season with a big-time win in a big-time stadium against a big-time team. No. 11 U-M topped the No. 17 Florida Gators 33-17 at AT & T Stadium in Arlington, TX, in a huge matchup for the season opener. Here are the five biggest takeaways from the game:
You are going to love this defense – Michigan had the top defense in the Big 10 last year but lost 10 starters to the pros or graduation. However, somebody forgot to tell the Wolverines. They held the Gators, who averaged 344 yards of offense last season, to a total of 192 yards, only 11 on the ground. Led by Rashan Gary and Devin Bush, the defense held Florida to just a single field goal on their opening drive. This has the makings of a special season for the D.
Wilton Speight left the door open to a quarterback competition – The only reason this game was close at all was because Speight overthrew his receivers on back to back series in the second quarter and Florida returned both of them for touchdowns. John O’Korn replaced him for a few series, but Speight returned for the second half. Unfortunately, Michigan only scored one offensive touchdown after the break. With a final line of 11-of-25 for 181 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INT, Speight’s lock on the starting job in tenuous at best.
SEC Speed? What SEC Speed? – Despite 10 Gators being suspended for this game, the talk coming out of Florida was still that the speed of even their second and third string players was going to be too much for Michigan. Don’t you know? They play in the SEC! Well, in case you didn’t notice, it was the Wolverines that were getting to the outside, and getting behind coverage, and forcing the Gators back into the middle, and chasing guys down from behind. The SEC certainly has its share of speed, but so does the Big 10. And the Big 12. And the Pac-10.
The O-Line is just fine – With only a couple exceptions, Speight’s issues throwing the ball had nothing to do with pressure. Michigan’s offensive line gave him all day to throw most of the game. In addition, they helped blow open some serious holes for running backs Chris Evans, Ty Isaac, and Karan Higdon. That trio combined for 220 yards rushing while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Somewhere, Bo Schembechler is smiling.
Michigan has a kicker – Seriously. You did NOT misread that. Quinn Nordine hit four of his six field goal attempts, including a 55-yarder and a 50-yarder. That is the first time in the school’s long, illustrious history that has ever happened. Heck, I can remember entire SEASONS when they didn’t hit two field goals that long. It is a weapon they are not used to having in Ann Arbor, but it should pay huge dividends this season.
The Wolverines play their home opener on Saturday, September 9, against the Cincinnati Bearcats.