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Michigan Football: How important is the season-opener against Florida? – GBMWolverine

Michigan football has some challenging games in 2017, including one right off the bat against No.16 Florida. But they key question, is how important will it be UM to beat the Gators?

If there has been one glaring weakness for Michigan football under the direction of Jim Harbaugh, it’s been the programs inability to win big games away from home.

All three of the Wolverines losses a season ago were on the road and in fact, the last time Michigan football beat a ranked team away from the Big House, was its 41-7 drubbing of Florida in the 2016 Citrus Bowl.

So, with Michigan and Florida set to open their college football seasons on a neutral field Sept. 2, it’s fair to ask, can UM pull off another neutral-site win over the Gators? And if they can, what will that mean for the Wolverines season?

Despite the loss of talent Michigan has experienced, most experts are still pretty high are the Wolverines. Last week, Michigan ranked ninth in the preseason coaches poll. Of five other polls surveyed, UM didn’t rank lower than No. 14.

Yet, the win projections for Michigan have largely fallen in the 8-10 range. Part of that has to do with the Wolverines difficult schedule, which includes road games at Wisconsin and Penn State, as well as a home finale against Ohio State.

Michigan did beat Wisconsin and Penn State at home last season, but doing so on the road this year, will be an entirely different animal. And of course, Harbaugh’s first win over Urban Meyer will not be easy to come by.

That means there is the potential for three losses in Big Ten play for Michigan football. Meaning, a win over Florida could be the difference between going 8-4 and 9-3. A win would also be critical if the Wolverines hope to reach 10 wins for a third straight year or if they want to have a chance at making it back to a New Year’s Six Bowl.

These early-season games can be tricky. The Badgers beat LSU last season in the opener and they used that as a springboard for a solid season that included a berth in the BIG title game and the Cotton Bowl.

LSU, on the other hand, went downhill and soon after losing to Wisconsin, they lost their coach. The Tigers season never got back on track. The same thing sort of happened to Michigan back in 2012.

At the time, the Wolverines were fresh off a Sugar Bowl victory and were opening the season against Alabama. Michigan football thought it was ready for the big stage, but it wasn’t.

Michigan got exposed in an embarrassing beat down. And the team never really recovered, finishing 8-5 just one year after going 11-2.

A loss doesn’t necessarily have to spell doom. It didn’t for UM in 2015, when it lost to Utah in Week 1, before winning 10 of its next 12 games. However, this Michigan squad has much higher expectations and much less room for error.

No one, including Harbaugh wants to see this program take a step back. Yet, an eight-win regular season or berth in anything less than a NY6 Bowl might give off the appearance of going backwards.

That’s something Michigan wants to avoid and beating Florida to start the season would be a good step. It would allow UM to build momentum early, while also getting a shot of confidence.

Then, even just one win against Wisconsin, Ohio State or Penn State, plus no upsets, would get UM to 10-2. That would be a heck of a season and would get Michigan back to a major bowl.

Beyond that, a high-profile win over an SEC foe will certainly help the resume for the College Football Playoff.

Losing to the Gators won’t be the end of the world for Michigan football. But if the Wolverines can get it, it would be a huge win, one that could propel them to even bigger heights than expected.

 

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