By Eric Olson, AP College Football Writer
Michigan and Florida will square off for the third time in three years when they meet in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 29 in Atlanta.
For the eighth-ranked Wolverines (10-2, No. 7 CFP), the game is a consolation prize after their College Football Playoff hopes were crushed in a 62-39 loss at Ohio State last week.
A berth in a New Year’s Six game is a remarkable accomplishment for Dan Mullen and his 10th-ranked Gators (9-3, No. 10 CFP). Mullen’s first Florida team has won five more games than it did year ago and finished second to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.
Michigan is 4-0 all-time against the Gators. Their most recent game was the 2017 season opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Michigan’s defense limited Florida to 192 yards and three points in a 33-17 win; the Gators’ defense scored two touchdowns.
The teams’ other three meetings were in bowls. Michigan won 41-7 in the 2016 Citrus, 41-35 in the 2008 Capital One and 38-30 in the 2003 Outback.
This game will match two strong defensive teams. Michigan, despite giving up 567 yards to Ohio State, still ranks No. 1 in total defense. Led by linemen Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich and linebacker Devin Bush, the Wolverines held eight opponents under 300 yards and five to 10 points or fewer.
Florida’s Jachai Polite and Jabari Zuniga have combined for 16 1/2 sacks and 27 tackles for loss after combining for six sacks and 13 1/2 TFLs in 2017.
Michigan bounced back from a 24-17 season-opening loss at Notre Dame to win 10 straight, beating three straight ranked opponents in Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State. Karan Higdon rushed for more than 1,000 yards and Shea Patterson has thrown for 21 touchdowns against six interceptions.
The Gators’ season highlight was the 27-19 win over then-No. 5 LSU in Gainesville on Oct. 6, a week after they went on the road and beat then-No. 23 Mississippi State.
They dropped back-to-back games to Georgia and Missouri before closing the regular season with three straight wins.
Feleipe Franks, benched in the third quarter against Missouri, rallied the Gators from 17 points down in the second half to beat South Carolina the next week. He’s completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,284 yards with 23 touchdowns against six interceptions.
Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett have combined for more than 1,400 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.
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