Florida’s offense finished the regular season on quite a roll, piling up more than 500 yards in each of the last three games.
“One of the things is our guys are a lot more comfortable in the offense now,” Mullen said. “As the year went on, comfortable in not just knowing the plays but knowing how to use the plays, how the plays are going to be, the opportunity to go make plays within the offense.
“When you get that comfort, you start to see us put up bigger numbers. So, I think just the confidence in what we’re doing and how we’re playing and they’re picking it up and understanding the offense.”
The Gators are in the comfort zone. But can they stay there in the Peach Bowl against the nation’s No. 1 defense. UF’s offensive hot streak figures to be seriously challenged by Michigan’s stout defense.
“Obviously, Michigan will be a huge challenge,” Mullen said. “Don Brown does a great job as a defensive coordinator. They’re very, very aggressive. They do a great job stopping the run, and then have great athletes in the secondary that can match up with all of your receivers and make great pressure on the quarterback.
“You see they can come at you at every level of the defense and have great players that can make plays at each level of the defense, and so we’re going to have to get a great plan together, and our guys are going to have to execute at a high level to put points on the board.”
This Michigan defense shut down the Gators in the opener last season in Arlington, Texas. UF managed just 11 yards rushing and 181 total yards in a 33-17 loss. And a struggling Feleipe Franks was benched in the second half.
The Wolverines will be facing a much different Florida offense — and a much different Feleipe Franks.
Franks has shown steady improvement over the course of the season in Mullen’s offense and is coming off one of the best performances of his career — 254 yards passing and three touchdowns in the 41-14 win over arch-rival Florida State.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround season for the Gators (from 4-7 to 9-3 and a New Year’s Six bowl) and for Franks. Last season, Franks threw for only 1,438 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions. This season, he’s thrown for 2,284 yards and 23 touchdowns and had just six interceptions. He’s also rushed for six touchdowns.
Franks and the offense will be severely tested in Atlanta.
“When I’ve gotten to see (Michigan) play, they’re not afraid to think outside the box,” Mullen said. “Their defense obviously comes at you from a lot of different angles. They pressure you in different ways.
“When we got on the plane to head out recruiting (last Saturday), really didn’t know who we were going to play, and as soon as we found that out, luckily I had about six different teams loaded into the laptop, and hit the Michigan button to start watching their defense. I’ve seen a little bit more of their defense, which I know is very aggressive and attacking, comes at you from a lot of different angles.”
Mullen will study a lot of tape on the UM defense over the next few weeks. He might pay special attention to the Wolverines’ final game against Ohio State, a game in which the Buckeyes rolled up 62 points.
Despite that stunning meltdown, the Wolverines still lead the nation in total defense.
It’s a defense that is hoping to bounce back big Dec. 29.
“I feel like we’ve got a good chance to change that around,” Michigan senior safety Tyree Kinnel said earlier this week. “That only happened once to us this year. I feel like that’s not who we are. I feel like we’re going to come into this matchup (with) the defense we’ve been playing like all year. We’ve got about a good month to get ready.”
What: Peach Bowl
Who: No. 7 Michigan (10-2) vs. No. 10 Florida (9-3)
When: Noon Dec. 29
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850