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Florida State, Michigan in rare matchup in Orange Bowl

Florida State will be heading back to South Florida for the bowl season.

The Seminoles (9-3) will face Michigan (10-2) in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 at 8 p.m., in Miami Gardens. This will be FSU’s 10th trip to the Orange Bowl, including the Seminoles’ first national title in 1993.

And it’s a rare matchup as FSU and Michigan have not played since 1991.

“Two brand-name schools that don’t ever get the chance to schedule very much, but it’s great that we’re going to get to compete in a big-time bowl game,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “That’s what makes college football so great.”

Florida State has a large alumni base in South Florida, and the Seminoles have performed well under Fisher at Hard Rock Stadium (a 5-0 mark that includes four victories over the Miami Hurricanes since 2010, along with an Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois in January 2013).

And it’s a homecoming of sorts for a large group of Seminoles who will be playing in front of family and friends. Among those are star tailback Dalvin Cook (Miami Central), along with receiver Travis Rudolph (Cardinal Newman), defensive tackle Wally Aime (Olympic Heights) and injured defensive end Keith Bryant (Atlantic).

The Seminoles’ goal in 2016 was to return to the college football playoff, but that objective fell short with early losses at Louisville and to North Carolina. But FSU rallied to win six of its last seven games and the Seminoles will be playing in a premier bowl game for a fifth straight season: 2012 (Orange), 2013 (Rose/BCS title game), 2014 (Rose/playoff semifinal) and 2015 (Peach).

The Seminoles haven’t faced a Big Ten team since playing Wisconsin in the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl. And it has been 25 years since the Seminoles played Michigan. In 1991, No. 1 FSU defeated No. 3 Michigan 51-31 at Ann Arbor as Casey Weldon threw for 268 yards and had three touchdown passes while the defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

Fisher said he has caught portions of Michigan’s games this season, including the regular-season finale between the Wolverines and Ohio State. Michigan features do-everything Jabrill Peppers, who has played quarterback, safety, linebacker and returned punts, as well as a defense that is No. 2 in the nation in allowing 253 yards per game.

While Michigan lost to Ohio State, Fisher has been impressed by the glimpses he has seen of the Wolverines.

“They had a tremendous year,” Fisher said. “They were right in the playoff picture to the end. We know we’re going to have a tremendous opponent.”

The last time the Wolverines came to the Orange Bowl was after the 1999 season, when quarterback Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns to lead Michigan to a 35-34 overtime win over Alabama. This will be Michigan’s third trip to the Orange Bowl, and 45th bowl game overall.

Florida State received an opportunity to play in a New Year’s Six game by virtue of its 4-0 November as well as Louisville’s late losses. Even though Louisville routed FSU 63-20 on Sept. 17, the College Football Playoff committee felt that the Seminoles’ finish and body of work built a better resume. FSU finished 11th in the CFP rankings, while Louisville was 13th.

“We spent considerable time on that,” CFP committee chair Kirby Hocutt said. “Florida State is a team that improved as the season went along, very talented team. The selection committee felt like Florida State was the better football team at the end of the college football season.”

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