Florida and Michigan met for the third time in four years in Saturday’s Peach Bowl, and for the first time the Gators came out on top. Both Dan Mullen and Jim Harbaugh deserve credit for leading their programs to 10-3 seasons and a New Year’s Six bowl game.
A Giant Panda incorrectly picked Michigan to win the bowl game and Mullen became even richer after UF’s 41-15 victory in Atlanta. For Harbaugh, however, it was another disappointing end to the Wolverines’ season after a bad loss to Ohio State ended any chances of a College Football Playoff berth. As any competitive coach would be, Harbaugh was, uh…salty after the game as the two converged at midfield for a postgame handshake.
Mullen was clearly trying to restrain a few of his players from gloating right in Harbaugh’s face. Harbaugh then didn’t plan on waiting for Mullen’s attention or outstretched arm and was out of there as quickly as possible. Usually, coaches shake hands, offer a pat on the back and maybe a word or two. There was none of that.
I can’t even blame Harbaugh here. Losing feels terrible. I can only imagine what it feels like with the pressure of an entire fan base expecting you to win every game you take the field for. Props to Harbaugh for restraining himself from telling Mullen the few players in front of him where to go.
But I don’t blame Florida’s side, either. The Gators just pummeled what once looked like a top-4 team this season. They totaled 427 yards and held Michigan to just 77 rushing yards while intercepting Shea Patterson twice, including a pick-6.
Mullen has clearly energized the entire Florida program and that win was the cherry on top to a successful first season. Players have a right to celebrate, and I’m not even sure they meant any disrespect to Harbaugh. Mullen at least tried to settle them down.
Let’s also not forget that these two coaches have a history of throwing shade at each other. Regarding satellite camps, former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen once suggested that Harbaugh should probably “want to teach young kids in Michigan how to be better football players” if he’s going to have a camp.
Mullen and Harbaugh also shared an odd exchange of fashion opinions before this bowl game.
Assuming Harbaugh stays at Michigan for years to come, let’s hope he and Mullen cross paths again. Even if it doesn’t produce any drama, it may be at least be an easy win for Florida.