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December 11, 2002 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-12-11

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December 11, 2002

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Satisfying an,

Outback hunger

No. 12 Michigan vs.

No. 22

Florida Wednesday, Jan. 1, 11 a.m.. Raymond James Stadium. ESPN

Blue hopes to
avoid another
speed trap
By Jeff Phillips
Daily Sports Editor
Last season, Tennessee proved that speed kills.
Specifically, speed kills Michigan in bowl games
played in the South. The Volunteers dominated the
Wolverines in every aspect of the game en route to
a 45-17 thrashing.
The most impressive display by Tennessee was
when quarterback Casey Clausen hit tight end
Jason Witten across the middle, and then the 265-
pound Witten outran the entire Wolverines' sec-
ondary to the end zone.
After Michigan lost and Louisiana State han-
dled Illinois in the Sugar Bowl, much was made
about the SEC's speed or the Big Ten's lack of it.
But to Florida coach Ron Zook, last bowl.season
was an anomaly.
"Maybe back in the early '90s it may have been
that way, but I don't think it's that way anymore,"
Zook said. "If you look at (Michigan's) football
team, they are big, strong, powerful and they have
speed. In terms of power and speed, I think that's
kind of a myth now in terms of the conference."
The embarrassment of the Citrus Bowl loss
forced the Wolverines to take a closer look at their
team speed. It was this team speed on both sides
of the ball that played a major part of Michigan's
wins this season.
Online updates
Can't get enough Daily Sports? Tap online for
more coverage today of: The men's track and field
intrasquad meet and men's swimming and diving.
Also, don't forget to go back for coverage over
winter break of the following sports: Men's bas-
ketball vs. UCLA, hockey in the Great Lakes
Invitational and football vs. Florida in the Out-
back Bowl.

Underachieving Gators
too much for Michigan

By David Horn
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan fans can complain all
they want about the return trip to
central Florida, and they can com-
plain all they want about yet another
matchup against an SEC opponent.
But this year's trip to the Outback
Bowl is not just an unnecessary nui-
sance. The Wolverines actually have
a job to do against Florida on New
Year's Day, and that is prove to the
country that the Big Ten can run
with the thoroughbreds of the SEC.
After last year's blowout loss to Ten-
nessee in the Citrus Bowl, in which
the Volunteers exploited their con-
siderable speed advantage to down
the Wolverines 45-17, Michigan has
another chance to keep pace with a
swift-footed SEC squad.
Gators have been able to limit a
team's productivity in the air, but
have yet to show that they can dom-
inate with their pass defense. Senior
Todd Johnson and junior Keiwan
Ratliff, both of whom earned sec-
ond-team All-SEC honors this year,
lead the unit. The Florida defense
gives up, on average, just 149 pass-
ing yards per game, but that may be
enough for the Michigan offense to
be productive. Expect Michigan
quarterback John Navarre to have a
day similar to that of Louisiana
State's Matt Mauck, who completed
just 13 passes on 20 attempts for
153 yards, but threw for two touch-
downs en route to a 36-point offen-
sive output for the Tigers. Those

numbers are Navarresque, and the
Michigan passing game should
expect to have a similarly produc-
tive day.
Edge: Even
Florida rushing defense has been a
particularly weak link for the
Gators. The unit has given up 167
yards per game on the ground, and
has allowed huge games from backs
like Florida State's Leon Washing-
ton and Auburn's Ronnie Brown.
Michigan running back Chris Perry
and fullback B.J. Askew have gotten
better as the season has worn on,
and should be able put together five
and six yard carries. That productiv-
ity would give Navarre the chance
to make shorter passes on second
and third down, thereby allowing
the efficient but unspectacular pass-
ing attack that is required to beat
the Gators.
Edge: Michigan


Wide receiver Ron Bellamy has been a major part of Michigan's passing attack this season. He will need to
play well if the Wolverines expect to defeat Florida.

Now, with the Wolverines set to play an SEC
team on New Year's Day for the fifth consecu-
tive season, they are ready get back on the win-
ning side.
"We have played SEC teams in bowl games
since I have been here at Michigan so we are well
aware of (Florida's) team speed," Hobson said.
"They have a lot of talent and they are a very fast
team, but I don't think that is something that will
overwhelm us. I think as long as we watch film
and prepare it will be a very good game."
Michigan wide receiver and Louisiana native
Ron Bellamy is quite familiar with the speed in
both the Big Ten and the SEC.
"I am from the South and the guys from the
West and Midwest are just as fast as the guys from
the South," Bellamy said. "It is all about execution

and who gets their players in the best positions to
make plays. That is what it comes down to, but it
isn't about who has the faster players. That helps
because speed kills, but I don't think they have an
advantage over us as far as speed goes."
Bellamy has been a key component of an
improved Michigan passing attack that has been
arguably more successful than Florida's tradition-
ally potent assault this season.
But despite the Gators' struggles on offense,
quarterback Rex Grossman, last season's Heisman
trophy runner-up, is still considering entering the
upcoming NFL draft. Yesterday, Grossman
announced that he has made up his mind but
refused to divulge just what that decision is. His
play against Michigan could go a long way in
determining Grossman's place in the draft.

year's Florida offense may be its
worst in over a decade, but it is not
for lack of trying. Florida quarter-
back Rex Grossman averages nearly
40 pass attempts per game, and the
Gators rank 11th in the nation in
See MATCHUPS , Page 12




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