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’ secondary to the end zone.
After Michigan lost and Louisiana State handled 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.
Now, with the Wolverines set to play an SEC team on New Year’s Day for the fifth consecutive season, they are ready get back on the winning 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 traditionally 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.