Free Citrus Bowl Pick: Michigan Wolverines vs. Florida Gators

Michigan Wolverines and Florida Gators meet in the Citrus Bowl, and the first team to 13 points wins. The game features two elite defense that will make the offenses seem hung over from New Year’s Eve.

Who will win the game? At The Power Rank, I make computer predictions by taking numbers such as yards per play and adjusting for strength of schedule. These adjustments come from an algorithm I developed based on my research background in statistical physics.

The numbers predict Florida by 1.2 points over Michigan in a tight, low scoring game. Florida’s defense is a touch better than Michigan’s, which tips the game in favor of the Gators.

However, these numbers do not consider two key personnel situations. Let me explain.

Florida QB Treon Harris

Florida began the season with Will Grier taking most of the snaps at QB. He got suspended for performing enhancing drug use during the season, and Treon Harris took over in their seventh game against LSU.

To evaluate this personnel change, I looked at how Florida’s pass offense fared the last 7 games with Harris. Based on yards per attempt adjusted for schedule, Florida ranks 60th in the nation based on only these games, worse than the 42nd they rank when considering the entire season.

This suggests that the change to Harris should cost Florida about two points against the spread. This is only a rough estimate, as it’s difficult to say anything with certainty based on 7 games of data.

The health of Jabrill Peppers

Perhaps even more important to the spread than Harris is the health of Michigan all purpose player Jabrill Pepppers. As of Thursday morning, it’s still unclear whether he plays due to a hand injury.

Peppers makes Michigan better in all three phases of the game. He plays safety on defense, and his raw athleticism allows him to make big plays (5.5 tackles for loss).

Peppers also returns kicks, a big reason Michigan ranks 11th in ESPN’s special teams numbers. Jim Harbaugh also used Peppers more on offense as the season progressed, as he is a threat to take every play for a touchdown.

It’s difficult to assign a point value to Peppers due to his many contributions. However, anyone who has seen his play this year knows that Michigan will miss him if he doesn’t play.

Outlook

Free Citrus Bowl Pick: Despite the uncertainty around Peppers, Michigan is a four point favorite. With a low scoring slugfest, it makes sense to take Florida and the points.

Rose Bowl Free Pick: Stanford Cardinal vs. Iowa Hawkeyes 

Direct from Las Vegas and the WagerTalk Team of Marco D’Angelo (@MarcoInVegas), Scott Spreitzer (@scottwins) and Bryan Leonard (@BLeonardSports) look at the Rose Bowl matchup between the Stanford Cardinal vs. Iowa Hawkeyes and give a free college football bowl pick.

Bowl Game: Rose Bowl
When: Friday, January 1, 5:00 PM on ESPN
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

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