Michigan ran the Florida Gators off the field on New Year's Day in the Citrus Bowl, earning its tenth win of the 2015 season and providing what fans hope is a glimpse of things to come in 2016.
Here are the takeaways:
The Most Complete Performance of the Year
Michigan saved its best football for last and absolutely dominated this football game in all aspects, even without Jabrill Peppers and Blake O'Neill.
The Wolverines totaled 503 yards on offense (278 passing, 225 rushing) and played a clean, mistake-free game on that side of the football. The offensive line was opening up holes and keeping Jake Rudock upright. The running backs were seeing the field well and making good cuts.
Against Florida's defense, one of the best in college football, to boot.
Defensively, Michigan owned a Florida team that just did not feature much all season, outside of a few nice plays from Antonio Callaway and Kelvin Taylor. Treon Harris was able to get free on a few scrambles, but finished 8-of-21 for 146 yards and a putrid interception in the end zone.
The Gators managed only 17 total yards in the second half.
This was as thorough an undressing that the Wolverines handed out this season and it came against the SEC East Champions.
Michigan Owned the Trenches
Florida is not exactly a world beater just yet, but to beat teams from the SEC, you need to play a physical, punishing brand of football and the Wolverines did just that on Friday.
As mentioned above, the offensive line had its best game of the season and the Wolverines were able to carve out yards in the run game with ease. Mason Cole and Graham Glasgow stood out as two players to me that really made a difference up front on that side of the football.
The defensive line was just as good, especially in the second half.
Going forward, this will be one of the trademarks of Michigan Football under Jim Harbaugh and most of the key players return next season on both sides of the football. Hats off to them for a great effort in the Citrus Bowl.
Rudock Puts His Stamp on U-M Record Books
What a ride the Jake Rudock roller coaster has been.
Things started off a bit slow for Rudock this year coming in as a graduate transfer from Iowa. He was expected to be a one-year stopgap that just needed to not lose games and take care of the football. Down the stretch, he emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten and led the Wolverines to wins with his arm, which was completely unexpected at the dawn of the season.
Rudock continued that progress today and forever etched his name in the Michigan record books. He is the first U-M quarterback ever to throw for 250-plus yards in five straight games and only the second ever to throw for 3,000-plus yards, behind John Navarre. He also finished off the second-best passing season for a Wolverine, also behind Navarre.
He went from being a semi-liability to being the unquestioned leader of this football team and had a great season. Rudock may not get drafted, but he has absolutely earned an invite to an NFL training camp somewhere.
Jehu Chesson is a Bonafide Number-One Receiver
Chesson was a huge part of Rudock's revival and the two's seasons seemed to peak at the same time, which is no coincidence.
Florida's Vernon Hargreaves, an All-American and surefire first round pick this spring, was tasked with covering Chesson and he was burned a few times, including a 31-yard touchdown reception where he was absolutely torched.
Michigan was in need of a playmaker that could take the top off of a defense in 2015 and they found it in Chesson. He may very well be the best receiver in the Big Ten heading into next season.
He finished with five catches for 118 yards and a touchdown.
The Harbaugh Effect is Real
While premature to call Michigan Football truly "back," Harbaugh has given them an identity again and things are trending upward in a big way for this program.
Harbaugh's fingerprints were all over this win and the season overall. This was a five-win team last year that lacked an identity and he has absolutely given them that. This is a smart, physical football team that plays to the final whistle and does not let him.
Michigan was the better football team coming into this game and they made sure the nation knew it. The starters were still out there late in the game trying to finish this thing out.
Friday's Citrus Bowl was a manifestation of all of the work that was put in throughout the season and everything finally materialized into what Michigan Football is expected to be.
Michigan State and Ohio State stand in the way of the Wolverines returning to true contender status, but 2016 is off to a great start.
We will see what the next 365 days bring.