2017: MICHIGAN VS FLORIDA
With the Michigan Wolverines having to replace most of their starters on both offense and defense entering the 2017 season, it wasn’t surprising to see the No. 11 Wolverines enter halftime trailing the No. 17 Florida Gators 17-13 in the 2017 AdvoCare Classic in Arlington, TX. However, it didn’t take the new-look Wolverines long to get acclimated to big-time college football, as Michigan scored three times in the first six minutes of the second half to erase the deficit en route to a 33-17 win to kickoff the season.
The loss snapped Florida’s string of 27 consecutive season-opening wins and allowed the Wolverines to avoid losing three games in a row for the first time under Jim Harbaugh. The game also marked the first time an SEC team suffered a loss in the AdvoCare Classic. The conference had been 5-0 dating back to the start of the series in 2009. It was Michigan’s first win in two tries in Arlington. Previously the Wolverines had fallen to Alabama, 41-14, to open the 2012 season.
Michigan’s rebuilt defense was stingy, pitching a shutout in the second half. Florida amassed just 192 total yards, including just 11 on the ground. The Michigan defense even got into the scoring act, recovering a fumble on a sack which resulted in a touchdown. The Gators were without 10 players who were all suspended for the game, including starting running back Jordan Scarlett and starting wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Additionally, Florida was relying on a redshirt freshman quarterback. Felipe Franks made his first career start, finishing the day 5-of-9 for 75 yards. He was later replaced by Notre Dame senior transfer Malik Zaire who went 9-of-17 for 106 yards, but he could not drive the Gators to the endzone either.
Wilson Speight tossed two early interceptions on consecutive throws in the second quarter, both of which were returned by Florida for touchdowns. However, he managed to reestablish himself and lead the Wolverines to victory. Speight finished 11-for-23 passing for 181 yards and a touchdown, a 46-yard throw to Tarik Black. Michigan was also buoyed by the leg of true freshman Quinn Nordin, the No. 1 kicker in the 2016 recruiting class, who nailed four field goals. He became the first kicker in Michigan history to connect on two 50-yard field goals in the same game, making a 55-yarder in the first half and a 52-yarder in the fourth quarter.