The Michigan football program is built on many traditions – most notably spending its New Years’ Days in Pasadena, Calif. and playing in the Rose Bowl.

The times, they are a changing.

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin announced yesterday that Michigan accepted a bid to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. to play the Florida Gators. The game will be played on New YearsDay at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast by ESPN. This marks the sixth time in seven seasons the Wolverines will ring in the new year in Florida against a Southeastern Conference opponent and the seventh-straight year Michigan will play on New Years.’

Michigan is 3-2 against the SEC in those five games, the last of which was a 45-17 drubbing at the hands of Tennessee.

“I think the Michigan-Florida Outback Bowl matchup is one that every college football fan will be excited to see,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

“This should be an outstanding game against a tough Florida team,” Martin said.

While the Gators (6-2 SEC, 8-4 Overall) have been one of the toughest teams to beat during the past decade, it is questionable how tough they are without coach Steve Spurrier, now coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. First-year coach Ron Zook has had a forgettable year in Gainesville, losing to SEC Western Division opponents Louisiana State and Mississippi as well as intrastate rivals Miami (Fla.) and Florida State.

Michigan (6-2 Big Ten, 9-3) will be playing in its fourth Outback Bowl (formerly known as the Hall of Fame Bowl), and Florida will be playing in its first. The game at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will mark the first time in history that Florida and Michigan have faced off on the gridiron.

Thanks to an unexpected confirmation that Iowa will be in the Bowl Championship Series mix, the Big Ten was able to officially announce its secondary bowl lineup. Penn State (5-3, 9-3) will play in the Capital One Bowl (formerly the Florida Citrus Bowl) against an SEC opponent, Wisconsin (2-6, 7-6) will play a Big 12 team in the Alamo Bowl, Minnesota (3-5, 7-5) will represent the Big Ten at the Music City Bowl against an SEC opponent, and Purdue (4-4, 6-6) will take on a Pac-10 opponent at the Sun Bowl for the second-straight season.

The Capital One Bowl was able to choose a third-place Penn State team over second-place Michigan because of a clause that says it has the discretion to take a team with one less Big Ten win than the Wolverines.

Michigan fans can begin ordering tickets for the Outback Bowl today through the Michigan Athletic Ticket Office’s website, mgoblue.com/ticketoffice, or by calling the office at 764-0247. Tickets for the game are listed at $55.

“We want to make Raymond James Stadium as maize and blue as possible,” Martin said.

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