FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Orange Bowl will be a statement game.
No. 6 Michigan (10-2) faces No. 11 Florida State at 8 p.m. ET at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., and each team has something at stake — besides winning a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Michigan wants to earn its 11th win and end the season on a high note after finishing November with two losses in its final three regular-season games. Florida State will play in front of a decidedly pro-Seminoles crowd in its home state and aims to earn its fifth consecutive win.
This is Michigan’s first meeting with Florida State since 1991, a 51-31 win for the Seminoles in Ann Arbor, Mich., in which Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac and Florida State quarterback Casey Weldon combined for 538 yards passing.
Safid Deen covers Florida State for the Orlando Sentinel, and gives some insight on the Seminoles. You can read Deen’s work and coverage of the Seminoles here, and you can follow him and the Sentinel’s coverage of Florida State on Twitter at @OSFSU.
Q: Michigan is eager to play against a program that, like the Wolverines, is considered one of the “blue bloods” in college football. What’s been Florida State’s sentiments toward playing against Michigan?
Deen: Florida State is also looking forward to the matchup as a chance to prove itself at season’s end. The Seminoles had their national title hopes and ACC championship aspirations ended early this season, but regrouped with six wins in their last seven games to close out the regular season. With losses against Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson behind it, Florida State plans to use the Orange Bowl as its last chance to prove it can put together a complete victory against a team like Michigan, which was on the cusp of the playoff this season.
Q: Florida State recently gave Jimbo Fisher a contract extension. Fisher was mentioned as a possibility to take over at LSU, but was the possibility of him leaving a real thing, or solely for leverage?
Deen: I think it was solely for another extension with the school. Fisher’s love of LSU and his time there working under Nick Saban has been well-documented. But he is a huge fan of the direction his program is going in, and above all else, job security. Fisher wanted to send a message to fans, recruits and opposing teams in the state that he’s staying at Florida State for the long haul, and the Seminoles’ success will continue with him at the helm.
Q: Running back Dalvin Cook is a legitimate NFL prospect. Do you see him turning pro after this season, and what makes him such a strong prospect?
Deen: It’ll be a matter of time after the Orange Bowl before Cook declares for the NFL draft. Cook is a sure-fire, first-round talent and proved he has the ability to be a franchise running back while also catering his game to the NFL level, becoming a viable option in the passing game this season. Cook’s knack for finding the holes in opposing defenses, stopping on a dime and changing direction, and running between tackles for short runs, make him one of the most coveted draft-eligible prospects for the draft.
Q. Deondre Francois has thrown for at least 300 yards five times this season, including 419 yards against Ole Miss in Florida State’s season opener. What stands out most about Francois?
Deen: Without question, it’s his toughness. Francois has a knack of holding onto the football a little longer than he should, resulting in clean and sometimes questionably late hits from opposing defenders. But when the Seminoles saw Francois get back up, and continue to lead them offensively, it made them collectively rally behind him early this season. Francois has had no trouble winning over his teammates on offense and getting them to play for him in his first season as a starting quarterback.
Q: Besides Cook, Francois and defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who is one player to watch on offense and one player to watch on defense from Florida State?
Deen: Florida State’s offense boasts at least four receivers that will likely get a touch against Michigan, but one player the Wolverines should be cognizant of is sophomore Nyqwan Murray. Despite his size (5-foot-11, 176 pounds), Murray is an elusive player who has started to turn the corner at season’s end with 25 receptions for 337 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, junior defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is an inside force that has fueled FSU’s defensive improvement this season. He has the skill set that will keep Michigan’s offensive line on its toes with Walker, Josh Sweat and Brian Burns rushing from the outside.