It is not a College Football Playoff game, but the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 will be a marquee matchup, nonetheless, between two powerhouse programs — Michigan and Florida State.
The sixth-ranked Wolverines (10-2) settled for an Orange Bowl invitation after their weekend did not go as they had hoped. Following their double-overtime loss to Ohio State, they needed a loss by Clemson or Washington in their conference championships to have a chance to squeeze into the four-team playoff.
Neither happened. Washington routed Colorado 41-10 in the Pac-12 title game Friday night, and No. 3 Clemson beat Virginia Tech 42-35 in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game Saturday.
So, Michigan and its block-M-wearing fans will head to South Florida to defrost for a few days. The Wolverines will face a 10th-ranked FSU team that is 9-3 after winning three of its last four games.
The Orange Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN) will be a homecoming for 22 Seminoles players with South Florida ties, including FSU career rushing leader Dalvin Cook of Miami Central, who could be playing his final college game if he enters the NFL Draft as anticipated.
Michigan has seven players from South Florida.
“This is exactly the kind of game we envisioned,’’ Orange Bowl chief executive officer Eric Poms said. “We have two of the marquee coaches in Jimbo Fisher and Jim Harbaugh. A lot of great players, and Dalvin Cook, one of Miami’s own, playing in front of his home fans. These are two historic programs with big fan bases, so I expect an electric atmosphere.”
The Orange Bowl will be the third meeting between Michigan and Florida State.
It will be the first time the teams have faced each other since 1991, when the then-top-ranked Seminoles beat the No. 3 Wolverines 51-31 in Ann Arbor.
In 1986, then-No. 5 Michigan beat No. 20 FSU 20-18.
“We are very excited to be one of the New Year’s Six Bowl Games, and an outstanding game and tradition of the Orange Bowl and carrying the torch for the ACC in this great game,” Fisher said. “Michigan’s had a great year. We’ve had a great year. … Two brand-name programs. It should be a great game for the fans.”
Harbaugh shared similar sentiments.
“I Iove the new renovations they’ve done in the stadium,” he said. “It’s a great place to play. We see Florida State, what a great team they have. The pony and spear.
“It will be a great matchup. We are excited to get ready for a football fight at the Orange Bowl.”
The FSU offense is led by Cook (1,620 yards, 18 rushing touchdowns) and quarterback Deondre Francois. On defense, the Seminoles boast the nation’s interception leader in Tarvarus McFadden and sack leader in DeMarcus Walker.
Michigan comes in with a stingy defense that ranks No. 2 nationally. The Wolverines gave up an average of 252.7 yards a game, are No. 1 in passing yards allowed (135.9) and No. 2 in scoring defense (12.5 points). Among their stars is Jabrill Peppers, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
“We know we’ll have our hands full, no doubt,” Fisher said. “We remember Jabrill Peppers from high school. He is physical enough to play like a linebacker but can also play safety or corner, and return kicks and punts. He’s a very unique player.”
Fisher expects another big game from Cook: “It is a blessing his family can see him play, possibly his last game for Florida State.
“He is one of the best in college football history. I’m sure he’ll want to play well in front of his home crowd. It’s a great reward that his family can be right there with him.”