College Sports

Florida Gators rewarded with Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. This is what UF thinks of its foe

Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen rushes his team off the field in the 2nd half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Florida defeated Florida State 41-14.
Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen rushes his team off the field in the 2nd half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Florida defeated Florida State 41-14. AP

A postseason matchup with a team that boasts the top-ranked defense in the nation is looming for the Florida Gators.

Florida finished at No. 10 in the final College Football Playoff poll of the season and will face the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec, 29. The contest is slated for a noon kickoff at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better matchup for our first Big 10 vs. SEC game in 28 years with two top-10 teams,” Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl CEO and president Gary Stokan said in a release. “We have a showdown between two storied programs that have combined for 14 National Championships, 50 conference championships and six Heisman Trophy winners. It’s going to be an incredible way to start the New Year’s Six bowl games.”

Florida (9-3) moved down one spot from its position in the rankings last week, but only one other three-loss team (Washington, No. 9) is ranked ahead of the Gators.

And Florida will face Michigan (10-2) for the fifth time in school history with three of the teams’ previous four matchups coming in bowl games.

The Wolverines hold a 4-0 series advantage over the Gators — including a 41-7 defeat of Florida in the 2016 Citrus Bowl to conclude the 2015 season (their largest margin of victory in the series).

The Gators only managed 273 yards of total offense in that game, and their only score was a two-yard Antonio Callaway touchdown pass to Treon Harris in the first quarter.

Michigan also topped Florida 33-17 in the 2017 season opener.

This year, Michigan has been one of the most dominant teams in the nation behind a defense that sits atop the FBS rankings in total defense, only allowing 262.5 yards per game and a little over four yards per play.

Florida will bring a defense into the matchup that is tied with Georgia for 12th in the nation against the pass, only surrendering 175 passing yards per game.

“We are looking forward to our trip to Atlanta for the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “I’m proud of our team of how they have embraced everything this year and finished strong and now they get the reward of playing in a high-profile bowl game for the opportunity to win 10 games.”

The Gators will make their 44th bowl appearance (22-21 overall record) and 18th New Year’s Six appearance on Dec. 29. And it’ll be the first time since 2012 that Florida has secured a bid to one of those major bowl games.

The last time out, the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Gators 23-33 behind a two touchdown, 266 passing yard performance by then-Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Florida can record its 10th win of the season with a win against the Wolverines this year, and it would be the 15th time the program accomplishes the feat in a single season and first since 2015.

Mullen would also become the first coach in SEC history to garner 10 wins in his first season as head coach. He would join Auburn coach Gus Malzahn (2013) as the only other coach to do so after inheriting a team that won fewer than five games in the season before his arrival.

“I’m happy for coach Mullen, his staff and the players who put in a lot of work to have the opportunity to play in New York Six Bowl,” Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said. “It will be a great week in Atlanta for our players, staff and fans.”

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