Florida and Michigan kick off their seasons in a non-conference matchup at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in one of the biggest games of the opening weekend of the 2017 season.
“Opening the season with a neutral-site game against the Florida Gators will be the ultimate test for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. The Wolverines are one of the favorites to win the 2018 College Football Playoff (+1200), and even when they have won all previous games they have played against Florida, the Gators have improved their game under Jim McElwain and they can’t be taken lightly,” MyBookie line manager David Strauss said.
Florida is at +4000 to win the national title.
The Wolverines have won all three previous meetings dating to 2003, including a 41-7 rout in the Citrus Bowl following the 2015 season. All three previous meetings have come in bowl games.
Here’s a look at the Florida-Michigan matchup by the numbers.
Returning starters: 9 offense, 5 defense
Key departures: LB Alex Anzalone, QB Austin Appleby, DT Caleb Brantley, DE Bryan Cox Jr., LB Jarrad Davis, DT Joey Ivie, S Marcus Maye, OT David Sharpe, CB Jalen “Teez” Tabor, CB Quincy Wilson.
Total offense: 344.0 yards per game (116th nationally last season)
Scoring offense: 23.9 points per game (107th nationally)
Passing offense: 215.8 yards per game (79th nationally)
Rushing offense: 128.2 yards per game (113th nationally)
Returning individual leaders
Passing: Luke Del Rio, 114-of-201, 1,358 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs
Rushing: Jordan Scarlett, 889 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving: Antonio Callaway, 54 receptions, 721 yards, 3 TDs
Florida had a messy quarterback situation in 2016. Del Rio missed seven games with shoulder injuries, and Appleby took over in his absence in order to keep a redshirt on freshman Feleipe Franks.
Franks emerged from spring practice atop the depth chart, but Del Rio is expected back in fall camp after missing the spring recovering from shoulder surgery. Florida is a potential landing spot for Notre Dame grad transfer QB Malik Zaire, although UF would need a waiver from the SEC office to accept Zaire.
The Gators’ rushing attack struggled to find consistency and was the lowest-ranked unit in the SEC. But Scarlett showed promise, and he will be running behind what is expected to be Florida’s best offensive line in five seasons. The receiving corps looks fine, and the Gators are deep at tight end.
K Eddy Pineiro should be one of the best in the nation; the same goes for P Johnny Townsend.
Total defense: 292.8 yards allowed per game (5th nationally last season)
Scoring defense: 16.8 points allowed per game (6th nationally)
Passing defense: 148.5 yards allowed per game (2nd nationally)
Rushing defense: 144.2 yards allowed per game (37th nationally)
The Gators lose several key starters on defense, including three starters in the secondary who were second-round selections in the 2017 NFL draft: Maye, Tabor and Wilson. Still, Florida returns several talented defensive backs, including Marcell Harris, Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner.
The loss of Anzalone and Davis could be mitigated somewhat because both missed time late last season, enabling David Reese and Kylan Johnson to get a head start of sorts. Both played well, and the Gators actually look OK at linebacker.
Brantley could be tougher to replace. Florida needs a big season from junior Cece Jefferson, who can be a disruptive force at end. The tackle spots could be problematic because of a lack of experienced depth.
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