One of the highlights of college football’s opening weekend is the SEC-Big Ten showdown between the Florida Gators and Michigan Wolverines. This matchup will take place at 3:30 on Saturday, September 2, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.
The Wolverines are viewed as 4-point favorites over the Gators. Betting on the game has favored Michigan ever so slightly after the Wolverines opened as 3-point favorites. The game also comes with an over/under of 45 points. Click here for a full list of Week 1 betting odds.
Florida vs. Michigan Betting Odds & Game Preview
This matchup features two high-profile head coaches who have done great things in their first two seasons at their respective schools, but whose fan bases are still itching for more.
At Michigan, Jim Harbaugh has delivered a pair of 10-3 campaigns. However, he’s not been able to get the Wolverines to the Big Ten Championship Game of the College Football Playoff. Harbaugh has done a great job of winning mostly with players recruited by Brady Hoke. However, expectations may be a little bit raised this season, as many of the players he recruited are finally ready to fill prominent roles.
The situation is similar for Florida’s Jim McElwain. The Gators have won the SEC East and played in the SEC Title Game in both seasons under McElwain’s leadership. However, they’ve also lost four games in each season and haven’t even sniffed the College Football Playoff. Florida fans will be encouraged by McElwain’s first two seasons, but by no means satisfied.
Both programs will see this game as a way to make a statement early in the season. A win will also propel the winner toward the front of the College Football Playoff discussion, while the loser will be trying to make up ground the rest of the season.
Free College Football Vegas Line Prediction: Michigan -4
Most of the time in matchups between the SEC and the Big Ten, you’ll want to side with the SEC team. However, this time I’m going to lean toward Michigan to both win the game and cover the spread. But in all honesty, this game is as tough to call as any the first week of college football, as both teams are young and inexperienced.
Neither coach appears to be settled on a quarterback. McElwain says that Luke Del Rio, Feleipe Franks, and Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire could all see the field against Michigan. That will make it difficult for the Wolverines to prepare for the game, but it also indicates a lack of leadership and continuity for the Florida offense.
Harbaugh is also playing hard ball with regard to naming his starting quarterback. Junior Wilton Speight is the incumbent and would bring stability to the Michigan offense after throwing for more than 2,500 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. That may be the best move considering the fact that Michigan returns few other starters on offense. However, Houston transfer John O’Korn remains an option and could allow Harbaugh to throw a curveball to the Gators.
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Both teams are in a similar boat defensively, as both teams excelled on that side of the ball last season but bring back few starters this year. The difference is that Florida is breaking in a new defensive coordinator in Randy Shannon. Of course, Shannon helped to coach championship teams at Miami, so he knows what he’s doing on that side of the ball. Meanwhile, Michigan did a solid job of rotating young players in last season, giving them some experience even with a young defense heading into this season.
Where this game will be won and lost is in Florida’s secondary. The Gators saw both of last year’s starting corners leave early for the NFL, while safety Marcell Harris, last year’s leading tackler, has been lost to a season-ending injury. Those losses will be problematic for the Gators. Whether it’s Speight or O’Korn starting at quarterback for Michigan, the Wolverines will have an experienced quarterback who can take advantage of a young secondary. A couple long touchdown throws will ultimately give the Wolverines a comfortable win.