The No. 11 Michigan Wolverines will kick off their 2017 season against the No. 17 Florida Gators in the Advocare Classic.
The Advocare Classic is an annual game held at the beginning of the college football season at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Of the nine teams that have won it, four have gone on to appear in the national championship game. The Wolverines appeared in the Advocare Classic (then the Cowboy Classic) in 2012 losing to the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide 41-14. The Gators, meanwhile, will be making their first appearance in the contest.
The reigning SEC East champions of the past two years may have their work cut out for them going into this matchup as seven players, including top receiver Antonio Callaway, will be suspended due to violations of team rules.
The quarterback position is also a big question for the Gators. It’s currently a three-man battle between redshirt junior Luke del Rio, graduate transfer Malik Zaire and redshirt freshman Felipe Franks.
However, the team will be bringing back its top rusher in junior Jordan Scarlett, who ran for 889 yards and six touchdowns in 2016.
With Antonio Callaway out for the Advocare Classic, Florida will need to rely on other options against the maize and blue such as senior tight end DeAndre Golsby, wide receiver Brandon Powell,sophomore Tyrie Cleveland and junior tight end C’yontai Lewis.
Their biggest strength, however, is their defense. A year ago, the unit ranked in the top ten nationally in points allowed per game and sixth in average total yards per game. It’s physicality was one of its defining traits and it should carry over into this season.
Michigan Players to Watch
The Starting Quarterback
Whether it ends up being Wilton Speight or John O’Korn, whoever gets the nod for this game will have a tough first test ahead of them as they will be facing a Gators secondary that allowed the second fewest passing yards in college football in 2016, right behind, oddly enough, Michigan.
They’ll also have to show that the maize and blue, while a team with a run-first offense, is just as good with putting the ball through the air as it is putting the ball on the ground. He’ll also have to work with a young group of receivers, headlined by….
The top-rated player in the state of Michigan, Peoples-Jones enrolled early upon committing to the maize and blue. With Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson having left, the young wide receiver should get plenty of reps throughout the season. He’ll certainly be tested against the stout Florida secondary.
Much like Michigan’s other units, the secondary has fallen victim to players leaving for the NFL Draft. All four starters from 2016 are gone and there doesn’t seem to be a certain group of players who could fix the situation long-term.
As a result, the Wolverines will have to turn to many of their true freshmen to show what they have. In this case, those players will be cornerback Ambry Thomas and safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell along with safety J’Marick Woods and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste.
The game can be seen live Saturday, Sep. 2 at 3:30 p.m. on ABC.