Michigan Wolverines 15 – Florida Gators 41
For most college football schools a 10 win season would be something to celebrate. Not so much for the University of Michigan’s 2018 campaign. The Wolverines 41-15 loss to the Florida Gators in the Peach Bowl ended their year on a sour note.
After losing their 2018 season opener to Notre Dame 24-17, Michigan rolled off 10 wins in a row. A 31-20 victory over Indiana in mid-November saw the Wolverines sitting 4th in the College Football Playoff Rankings. A win at Columbus in their annual grudge match with Ohio State would propel them into the National Championship Playoffs.
Michigan left the “Horseshoe” with their tail between their legs. The Buckeye’s 62-39 blowout win ended Michigan’s Playoff hopes. Still, a top-tier Bowl game offered some solace.
A trip to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia offered Michigan an opportunity to end the season on a high note. The 7th ranked Wolverines vs. the 10th ranked Florida Gators. Michigan’s last 11 win season came in 2011 under Coach Brady Hoke.
Donovan Peoples-Jones opened the scoring with a nine-yard touchdown reception from Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. Jake Moody kicked a 48-yard field goal to account for Michigan’s 10 first-half points. The Gators led 13-10 after a tightly contested 1st half.
Michigan entered the game with the #1 ranked defense in the country for yards allowed. They ranked 2nd in pass defense. Despite giving up 62 points to Ohio State, Michigan opponents only averaged 17.6 points per game.
Second Half Letdown
The vaunted Michigan defense broke down in the 2nd half allowing the Gators to score 28 points. Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks passed for 173 yards and rushed for another 74. The win marked the 1st victory for the Gators in 5 meetings with the Wolverines.
Two consecutive losses by the combined score of 103-54 left Michigan fans bemoaning what could have been.
Coach Jim Harbaugh
Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh is not in danger of losing his job. It’s remarkable that there is even a conversation regarding his contract status. Harbaugh’s 38-14 record in 4 seasons includes three years with 10 wins.
But Michigan fans are not happy with Harbaugh’s big game performances. Zero coaching wins against bitter rival Ohio State. Two losses to Michigan State and 3 consecutive bowl game defeats. No Big 10 championships. Keeping the alumni happy is critical to job success at Michigan.
Michigan opens 2019 with Middle Tennessee and Army. An away game at Wisconsin September 21 poses the first big test. Another away match at Penn State follows on October 19. The 2019 season wraps up with 3 home games against Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Once again, expectations will be sky-high. Can the Wolverines deliver?
Michigan State Spartans 6 – Oregon Ducks 7
Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio has raised the expectations of Michigan State football fans. In his 12 years at East Lansing, Dantonio has posted a 107-51 record. Including 6 seasons with 10 or more wins. Three Big 10 Championships and an appearance in the 2015 College Football Playoffs. Despite slipping to 3-9 in 2016 Dantonio remains an icon to State football fanatics.
His 8-4 record against cross-state rival Michigan contributes to his legendary status. So Spartan fans are likely to forgive this year’s 7-6 record and a stinker of a bowl game.
Playing in the Redbox Bowl does not offer the visibility of a New Year’s Six Bowl game. But, it’s a nice reward for a team with a 7-5 record. Visiting Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California is a treat in late December. Arguably better than Big 10 Bowl assignments in Detroit and New York City.
Apparently, the comfortable temperatures and California Dreaming mesmerized the Spartans. They sleep-walked through a 0-0 first half with the Oregon Ducks. This video clip of Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke pretty much sums up the Spartans afternoon.
Michigan State kicker Matt Coghlin booted 2 field goals in the 3rd quarter to put the Spartans up 6-0. A Jeff Herbert to Dillon Mitchell touch down strike sent the Ducks into the lead early in the 4th quarter.
A Chance to Win Late
An aborted field goal attempt by Oregon left everyone in the stadium scratching their heads. MSU blew up the play and gained possession of the ball near midfield with a little over 6 minutes left in the game.
It took MSU 12 plays to go 33 yards and set up a 49-yard field goal attempt to retake the lead. Yep, you guessed it. The Spartans could not convert. In fact, Coghlin never laid a toe to the ball. Lewerke fumbled the snap and added another video highlight to his resume.
An MSU last-gasp chance was nearly fumbled away. But, no matter, the game ended pretty much the way it started. Ugly!
Dantonio will have a lot of work to do in the off-season. The Spartans open 2019 with what is essentially a 5 game preseason against lightweight opponents. Before a brutal October that has MSU visiting Ohio State and Wisconsin. They close out the month with a home date against Penn State.