We are all guilty of recency bias. Our teams are only as good as the last time we saw them. That’s why Michigan’s No.2 in this college football playoff semifinal looks like the mirrors in your car. You know, those who warn, “Objects can be closer than they appear.”
It’s the Wolverines, who enter the Orange Bowl as a 7.5-point underdog, according to Caesars Sportsbook. It’s just a half a point ahead of Ohio State which was favorites against Michigan five weeks ago in Ann Arbor.
We all know what happened there.
Michigan has more than a shot to hit. He will ensure that this game is decided in the trenches. The UM knows no other solution, and Georgia No.3 must prove it can bounce back from the Alabama debacle.
This should be the best of the two semi-finals. There is sizzle. Two traditional powers trying to get rid of past failures. Alabama’s No.1 is a prohibitive favorite against No.4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl and, well, meh. If the chalk holds, we’ll have our second Alabama-Georgia game in just over five weeks.
It is looking to the future. So far we have a game that has only been played twice in history, the last time in 1965. Georgia are trying to find themselves defensively. Who would have thought these words would ever be written after the Bulldogs’ season began? Michigan is on a roll, playing its best over Jim Harbaugh’s seven seasons.
Michigan has the most wins in history (976). Georgia have been chasing their first national championship in more than four decades. To get there, the Dawgs must pass through the suddenly formidable Wolverines.
Even a month ago, this showdown didn’t look so intimidating for Georgia. Then the Dawgs face crashed into the Crimson Tide. Meanwhile, Michigan has hung 40 in both Ohio State and Iowa.
We told you there was a sizzle. Here are five keys to the Orange Bowl, which will serve as the playoff nightcap on Friday night.
1. The pride of Georgia
Well, on the one hand he is injured with other parts of the body. The imprint left on the backs of the Dawgs from the Alabama game rhymes with “gas sticking”. It was so bad for a generational defense that had allowed just nine touchdowns all season until the Tide scored 41 points (including five touchdowns) in the SEC Championship game. Worse, UGA was pushed down the defensive line, the most talented positional group on the program.
“It gives you a little confidence,” Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said of Alabama’s result.
Georgia must win this game. This must win the national championship. It’s been too long. His fans demand it. It is his destiny. Anything less and the season is a failure.
It starts with defense. Michigan made it a game to be decided in the trenches. It is essentially a challenge for Georgia. If the Dawgs don’t play in line, they lose. The Wolverines have enough firepower to score if the D-line does not reappear. More than that, Michigan is strong enough defensively to contain Georgia.
“They’re playing physically,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They like to club.
If Michigan is allowed to hang around late, that will have to play into the minds of the Dawgs. They led the country on the points differential until they were exposed by Bama. Did Georgia completely gut Alabama, or is there lingering doubt?
The question of who would start as Georgia quarterback was quickly answered this week by offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “There is no doubt in my mind that we can win the national championship, and… there is no doubt in my mind that we can win it with Stetson Bennett. There is no doubt,” a he declared.
There has been speculation that JT Daniels will come out of the bullpen this week and save the Dawgs after Bennett’s sketchy performance against the Tide. Whether that comes to fruition at some point in the game remains to be seen. Either way, expect Bennett to be the kickoff guy.
A lot of Georgia fans won’t be happy with this. They think Daniels (in good health) gives the Dawgs the best chance of winning. The question is how Bennett held onto his position when Daniels started the season as a starter, got injured a few times, came back healthy and never took over the reins.
“Sometimes the opportunity leads to things that end up going your way,” Monken said. “I don’t know if I said that exactly, but it never turned around the other way JT got a chance to walk in there.”
Read between the lines and you can conclude this about the quarterback conundrum: Bennett is more reliable than Daniels on and off the field. Daniels has been injured several times in his career. Bennett doesn’t return the ball (as much) and is more trustworthy when games fail.
Does it matter if neither can avoid Heisman Trophy finalist Aidan Hutchinson? The big pressure will be on Georgia tackles Jamaree Salyer and Warren McClendon. Meanwhile, Bennett doesn’t give a damn what critics think.
“I wouldn’t listen to myself if I gave a speech about heart surgery,” he said. “I don’t compare football to heart surgery, but it’s the same kind of idea. So why would I listen to someone who doesn’t do this for a living and watches it happen? produce? “
Maybe Daniels throws a better ball. Bennett has become a more consistent overall player. The film doesn’t lie. Daniels was first passed by Kedon Slovis at USC (himself transferred to Pittsburgh) and now by Bennett in Georgia. Again, reading between the lines, Monken said this week that not all five stars live up to their hype.
“We went to the [SEC] Championship game with Stetson Bennett as favorite quarterback compared to a team that hasn’t been an underdog for over five years, ”he said. that stereotype of players based on where they were at any given time. OK, at one point – whether it was a walk, the other was a five star, whatever – if you just look at the production and what he did for our football team, that’s impressive. “
3. Harbaugh goes up
It took seven years, but Harbaugh fulfilled his destiny at his alma mater with a Big Ten Championship and a playoff berth. The Wolverines play the way Harbs always expected them to play – with physical defense and running-based attack. Bo Schembechler would be proud.
After a season of coaching churn, Harbaugh has turned out to be one of the best deals in the game. Sporting director Warde Manuel made the call during the offseason, extending his coach with plenty of incentives while slashing his salary. A half. Players didn’t pay attention to the increase in dog barking after Harbaugh went 2-4 in 2020.
“We always knew from day one that it was Michigan against everyone,” said cornerback DJ Turner.
The Wolverines are playing with the house money at this point. They are here for the first time. At least two CFP teams are considered better (Alabama, Georgia). They are expected to lose. That’s why it would be unwise to dismiss Harbaugh and what he’s built this season.
“You can’t pay attention to anyone outside the building,” defensive end David Ojabo said. “They don’t do the work that we do. They don’t wake up at 6 am running up the hills. They just watch us on TV. What they have to say doesn’t really make sense. true.”
4. Michigan’s good sneak offensive attack
We just told you above how proud Bo would be, but Bo never tackled things like Gattis. Yes Michigan has a top 10 racing game. Not a surprise. But he also leads the country in gains of at least 50 yards. It’s more than Oklahoma, more than Alabama, and more than Ohio State.
This is because the attack is sneaky under Gattis.
Running back Blake Corum helped part-time recover from a leg injury, but still dropped a big 55-yard run over Ohio State and a 67-yard touchdown run against Iowa. Gattis – and by extension Harbaugh – likes to set up opponents by pounding the boulder and then working out game action, end turns, knockdowns, etc. when the tusks stack the box.
While taking extra time to extend games may not work against an elite defense that can chase, it has worked for Michigan so far.
Watch wide receiver AJ Henning (18 yards by Rush), WR Cornelius Johnson (third in the Big Ten in yards per reception) and Corum, who is now 100% healthy. While Corum (fourth in the Big Ten yards per carry) once led the Big Ten in the race this season, Hassan Haskins (20 TDs) has become key to the offense, if not Michigan’s most explosive player.
5. Hello, goodbye Dan Lanning
With Georgia’s defensive coordinator with one foot out for Oregon, Smart elevated assistants Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann to co-coordinators. So far, Lanning, 35, is making a spectacular outing, still calling games in the Orange Bowl. Dramatic in that the defense he’s built to become one of the best in the past 20 years will be his last in Georgia.
Will he leave with a championship ring on his finger? If not, how does this defense go down in history? As a footnote? Is it possible that Lanning gets into the game distracted trying to serve two programs?
“With the West Coast being three hours away from us, allowed us to really focus on Georgia at the start of the day and then later into the night to be able to accomplish a lot there with our team in Oregon,” Lanning said.
So what time does Lanning work for the Ducks?
“I don’t point in and out,” he said. “We work until the job is done. Sometimes it’s later than the other nights. We’ve had a few late nights, but we don’t lack the energy or the ability to ride here.”