ATLANTA -- No. 10 Florida dismantled No. 7 Michigan 41-15 Saturday afternoon in the Peach Bowl to push its record to 10-3 in coach Dan Mullen's first season at the helm. Quarterback Feleipe Franks threw for 173 yards and one touchdown, rushed for 74 yards and another score, and Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett each found the end zone on the ground in the rout over the Wolverines.
Defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, playing his final game with the orange and blue, picked off two passes and returned one for a score to win defensive MVP honors for the Gators.
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson was 22 of 33 for 236 yards and one score. Star running back Karan Higdon sat out the game to focus on the NFL Draft, and the running game suffered as a result, with the Wolverines averaging just 2.5 yards per rush.
The loss drops Michigan to 10-3 on the season, with all three losses coming to top 10 teams.
What are the big takeaways from the game?
1. Dan Mullen is a wizard: In one year at the helm, Mullen has completely reversed the outlook of the program and has the fanbase thinking about championships once again. To lead a program that lacked confidence, depth and development to a 10-win season in Year 1 is nothing short of spectacular. This wasn't a case of a program falling on hard times. It was a program neglected in every possible way by the Jim McElwain regime. Mullen changed everything, and it's paid immediate dividends.
Now comes the tricky part. Newfound hope also comes with accelerated expectations for a program that still is significantly behind two-time SEC East champion Georgia. Catching and surpassing the Bulldogs will take much longer than this quick turnaround, but that goal isn't just a pipe dream anymore.
Mullen was a home run hire when athletic director Scott Stricklin hired him last offseason. Now, it's looking more as if it was a grand slam.
2. Let the Franks hate go: Florida fans have been all over the redshirt sophomore quarterback during his first two seasons under center, but it's time to let that go. Franks isn't a superstar, but he's pretty darn good. His two touchdowns on Saturday brought him to 31 total scores on the season. That's four behind Gator legend Tim Tebow in 2009, who played in one more game than Franks. That's not to say that Franks should be compared to the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion; anybody who does that should be immediately checked out by a team of doctors. But it does put into perspective what kind of season he had.
Franks has had the best season by a Florida quarterback this decade, and it's not even close. That's not a high bar, but to take in a new offense, deal with mounting pressure throughout the season and bookend it with a win over the stout Michigan defense is more than enough to endear him to Gator Nation.
Feleipe Franks knew he was pulling this TD the entire time pic.twitter.com/NEVeXEvZc6— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 29, 2018
3. The shine has worn off Jim Harbaugh: The Michigan legend came to Ann Arbor to bring the program back to a championship level. Even though the Wolverines have been in the conversation in November in two of the last four years, thoughts of a national championship are pure fantasy. He's 1-9 against AP top 10 teams, and that trend doesn't look like it will get reversed any time soon.
Harbaugh isn't a savior. He's Les Miles 2.0 during Miles' last four seasons as the head coach at LSU. He wants to build an offense that runs his style, and flat-out refuses to adapt with modern college football. The blueprint to beat Michigan is simple -- put the offense in a spot where it has to score 30 out of necessity rather than desire, and the game is yours. Like those Miles-coached teams, it's easier said than done. The Michigan defense -- save for the last two outings -- typically keeps games tight and doesn't force its offense to go point-for-point. But great defenses have bad days, especially against teams with equal or better talent.
Great coaches adapt. It's why Nick Saban hired Lane Kiffin in 2014 and continues to run a more exotic offense today. It's why Urban Meyer inserted a fullback into his system in 2005 at Florida and blended power football with spread concepts. It's why Dabo Swinney was able to withstand the early hot seat at Clemson and develop the program into a monster.
Harbaugh isn't a great coach. At this point, it might be hard to argue that he deserves the "very good" moniker. He's a dinosaur who's letting football pass him by.
4. The Gators defense is still a monster: New coaching staff, same ol' defensive results. Florida's defense under coordinator Todd Grantham didn't miss a beat in Year 1, and it punctuated its season by whipping the Wolverines in every facet.
Defensive back C.J. Henderson set the tone early with a sack of Patterson and consistent pressure, Gardner-Johnson shined in his final game and the front seven consistently confused the Wolverine offensive line with relentless and exotic pressure. Will that continue? That's a loaded question. While the scheme won't change and has proven to be successful, several stars played their last game on Saturday including Gardner-Johnson and star defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson.
At this point, though, you have to think that the identity of the program won't change, and the Gators will be back and better than ever sooner rather than later.
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