Michigan will play in the Peach Bowl against Florida without at least one starter and one assistant coach.
Junior defensive end Rashan Gary, who declared last Monday he will not return to the Wolverines for his final year of eligibility to pursue the NFL Draft, will not play in the bowl game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Sunday evening.
Michigan (10-2) will face the Gators (9-3) in the bowl game on Dec. 29 at noon (ESPN). It will be their third meeting in four seasons, and the Wolverines have a 4-0 record against the Gators.
Also, with receivers coach Jim McElwain taking over as Central Michigan head coach, Harbaugh said offensive analyst Ben McDaniels will handle the receivers during bowl preparations.
Harbaugh was asked if any other players will sit out the bowl game in Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Just Rashan,” Harbaugh said.
McElwain spent one season with the Wolverines and was head coach at Florida the previous three years. He will be officially introduced Monday as Central Michigan’s head coach.
“I really like Jim a lot and I’m really excited for him,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s a great fit.”
This will be Michigan’s first appearance in the Peach Bowl. Bowl pairings were announced Sunday. The Wolverines were No. 7 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and Florida was No. 10.
CFP chair Rob Mullens said Sunday that Michigan’s ranking determined its New Year’s Six bowl destination.
“Michigan being ranked No. 7 obviously deserved to stay closest to home, so that’s what placed them in Atlanta,” Mullens said, adding that No. 8 UCF played in the Peach last year, hence, the Knights being paired in the Fiesta Bowl against LSU.
After losing to Notre Dame in the season opener, Michigan won 10 straight before losing badly, 62-39, at Ohio State.
“Our players, they played a great season, our coaches have coached a great season,” Harbaugh said of rebounding from that loss. “We’ve overcome every adversity. Nothing changes. Just means the work isn’t done. Looking forward to the competition in the (bowl).”
Michigan has not had an 11-win season since 2011 under Brady Hoke when the Wolverines won the Sugar Bowl. This is the Wolverines’ third 10-win season in Jim Harbaugh’s fourth seasons as head coach. They earned a share of the Big Ten East Division title but lost out on a trip to the Big Ten championship with the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale.
The Wolverines will look to snap a two-game bowl losing streak. While they are coming off the loss to Ohio State, Florida finished the season with three straight wins.
The Wolverines are 4-0 against Florida, their most recent victory, 33-17, in the 2017 season opener in Arlington, Texas. Michigan has beaten the Gators in New Year’s Day games in 2003, 2008 and 2016.
"We are looking forward to our trip to Atlanta for the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl,” Florida first-year coach Dan Mullen said in a statement. “I'm proud of our team of how they have embraced everything this year and finished strong and now they get the reward of playing in a high-profile bowl game for the opportunity to win 10 games. We will have some more time off to focus on academics and get our bodies right before we get back to work, prepare for the game and enjoy our time in Atlanta, which is a special city for us and our fans.”
The Wolverines got back to work this past week, mostly the players who didn’t get much playing time during the season. Harbaugh said on his podcast last week that “opportunity practices” for the younger players would begin Monday, while all players would go through weight lifting and conditioning.
Michigan’s annual banquet is next Sunday at Crisler Center, and Harbaugh said that the team would begin bowl practices in earnest a few days later.
Junior linebacker Devin Bush, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, is projected a high NFL draft pick but has not yet announced his plans. He did say during a recent Big Ten Network interview he plans to play in the bowl.
Players said after the loss to Ohio State that they would look to their four captains – seniors Tyree Kinnel and Karan Higdon, and juniors Ben Bredeson and Bush – for direction as they readied themselves for bowl preparations.
“We’ve got to keep pushing,” running back Chris Evans said after the game. “Our leaders are going to be leaders. The leaders are going to bring it all together and see what we’ve got to do next.”
Kinnel said the focus is getting that 11th victory.
“I look at it as I’ve got one more game left as a Michigan Wolverine,” Kinnel said. “As a leader, as a captain, I just want to get the team together and we’ve got to finish on top. I’m pretty sure we’ll be in a pretty good bowl game, and we can’t just down our heads these next three or four weeks.
“We’ve got to keep it together. There’s a lot of young guys on the team that’s going to need these three weeks. It would be great to go into the offseason with a big win. We haven’t done that in a couple years, either. Going to take this last game and try my best.”
Michigan vs. Florida
Kickoff: Noon, Saturday, Dec. 29, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
TV/radio: ESPN/950 AM
Records: Michigan 10-2, 8-1 Big Ten; Florida 9-3, 5-3 SEC
Tickets: $160; available at mgoblue.com/tickets beginning Monday at 8:30 a.m.