UF, Michigan to tangle in Orlando


Percy Harvin and the Gators will play Michigan in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 8:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 8:37 p.m.

With the coaches from both schools lobbying for the spot opposite Ohio State in the national title game, Florida and Michigan were at the center of the BCS controversy on selection Sunday a year ago.

This time, the Gators and Wolverines were far removed from it.

While the rest of the nation waited to see how the latest BCS mess would work itself out Sunday, Florida and Michigan rather quietly accepted bids to play each other in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl, which is outside the BCS and nowhere near the controversy.

"This is the bowl we wanted to be in," UF coach Urban Meyer said Sunday night. "We're awful excited to go and play such a tradition-rich program like Michigan. I think it's a bowl game the entire country will be excited to see."

For a non-BCS bowl, it does offer some allure.

It will be Lloyd Carr's last game at Michigan. It features an Ohio native (Meyer) against a Michigan man (Carr). It could have the Heisman Trophy winner (Tim Tebow) and next year's preseason No. 1 team (if the young Gators successfully close their late run with a victory).

"I think a 9-3 (UF) team that did not have an opportunity to go play for a national championship wanted to go to the best (non-BCS) bowl game out there," Meyer said. "It's the Capital One Bowl in a great Gator town.

"College football is momentum. I've said it many times. We've got momentum going right now. We're a young team. There's a lot to play for in this game. We're building for the future. The future is strong at Florida. We just have to get these (young) guys to improve. Momentum is everything."

Momentum is something Michigan does not have at the moment. The Wolverines, who were upset in September by tiny Appalachian State, closed the season with back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and arch-rival Ohio State and enter the postseason 8-4 and unranked.

But Michigan will be healthy for the first time in months. Carr said Sunday that quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart, a strong Heisman candidate coming into the season, have recovered from injuries that sidelined them for a considerable portion of the season.

"The trainer tells me Mike and Chad will be ready to play," Carr said. "The main thing is to have a couple of good weeks preparation and go down there and put our best team together."

Carr and Meyer spoke highly of one another Sunday night. Carr said the two met on the recruiting trail in the 1990s, when Meyer was an assistant coach at Notre Dame, and the two have remained friends.

"He's one of the guys I've always liked," Carr said of Meyer. "He's a guy that represents all the positive things in college football."

Meyer will have the distinction of coaching against Carr in his final game at Michigan.

"I grew up in the state of Ohio and I'm very familiar with the University of Michigan," Meyer said. "I've always admired coach Carr and have great respect for the consistency his program has performed with over the last 13 years."

Carr said he isn't sure what it will feel like coaching in his last game.

"We always have a group of seniors playing in their last game," Carr said. "I can only say I know how excited they are and what it means to them. We've had some obstacles and some difficult times. It's a group of outstanding leadership in this senior class. I'll just be one of them, one of the guys who will be involved in his last game at Michigan. We're all looking forward to that."

Carr is also familiar with Tebow, whom many now consider the Heisman front-runner.

"We tried very hard to recruit Tim to Michigan," Carr said. "He came up for a game and took a good look at Michigan. I know him well and I know his family.

"He's had an incredible season. He's certainly a guy that probably in the last 25 years in my experience, is a guy that has done some things no other quarterback has done. He's an exciting football player to watch."

This will be the second meeting between Florida and Michigan. The Wolverines defeated the Gators 38-30 in the 2003 Outback Bowl.

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