After watching three Big Ten rivals find out their bowl fates early Sunday afternoon, the No. 14 Michigan football team didn’t have to wait long for the Citrus Bowl to call. And though the Wolverines won’t play in the Rose Bowl or the College Football Playoff, they feel that their matchup against No. 19 Florida will be a worthwhile one.
“We’re very excited for the bowl,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “It sounds like it’s going to be great, fair, honest, healthy competition. We’re looking forward to it.
“We feel like we’re getting the long straw on this one, happy to be there.”
The game against the Gators will take place on Jan. 1, and at least one familiar face for both teams won’t be on Michigan’s sideline. Former defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin — who coached at Florida from 2010-14 before coming to Michigan for the 2015 season — announced Tuesday that he would become the next head coach at Maryland.
Instead, Harbaugh said Sunday night that defensive line coach Greg Mattison, who was the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator from 1995-96 and again from 2011-14, would take control of one of the nation’s top defenses.
“I’m excited to have Greg coordinate the defense. I think he’ll do a fantastic job,” Harbaugh said. “He’s one heck of a good coach, and he can handle the pressures of calling defenses, and I think he’ll be excellent.”
Harbaugh said the promotion is just for the bowl game, but Mattison could be in contention for the gig moving forward if he wanted it.
It also appears that Mattison, 66, will have his work cut out for him in the game. Harbaugh confirmed that redshirt junior defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow is highly unlikely to play and that sophomore defensive tackle Bryan Mone is still awaiting medical clearance to return to action.
Health is more of a point of optimism on offense, however, as fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock is likely to play after leaving the Wolverines’ 42-13 loss to Ohio State with a shoulder injury.
“He hasn’t thrown yet,” Harbaugh said. “He hasn’t thrown yet, but I think he’ll be able to soon.”
As for Michigan’s opponent, Harbaugh said he has watched about half of the Gators’ games this season and has been impressed, especially by their defense.
Florida shares a number of parallels with the Wolverines. The Gators improved by three wins in their first season under new head coach Jim McElwain, and laid a strong foundation for future years of playoff contention.
Harbaugh reflected on a year of improvement but noted that one game remains on the schedule.
“I don’t think of it as a foundation, I think of it more as a train — a locomotive building speed and moving forward, not static or in one place,” Harbaugh said. “We have a great opportunity to keep moving at the same pace we have been in this game.”