The path to winning college football’s national title will be underway soon. The excitement starts on New Year’s Eve when the four selected programs will face off for the right to become college football’s national champion for the 2021-2022 season. The Georgia Bulldogs versus the Michigan Wolverines will be our first game to break down and analyze for this year’s college football playoff. The Bulldogs are back in the playoff conversation for the first time since the 2017 season.
They came up short to conference rival Alabama on a walk-off touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to DeVonta Smith in the final round the postseason. As for Michigan, this will be the first time that the program has competed for a national title under the new playoff format introduced in 2014. They were able to recover from a gut-wrenching loss during the season to inner-state rival the Michigan State Spartans 37-33.
The Wolverines’ loss to the Spartans did not drastically affect their rankings in the numerous top 25 polls. Once the first official CFP rankings were unveiled, Michigan was ranked 7. They were able to win their final four games of the season and capped everything off with a 42-3 blowout against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten championship game.
Michigan’s opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs, were head and shoulders above everyone in college football this season until they faced a resurgent Alabama team that proved to be too much to handle in this year’s SEC championship game. The loss to the Crimson Tide dropped Georgia to no.3 in the CFP rankings. It was their first loss of the season; however, it was not enough to remove them from the final four teams that would compete for a national title. Let’s look at the keys to the game for both programs.
Michigan Wolverines Keys to the Game
For Michigan to succeed in the Orange Bowl, their defense must rattle Georgia QB, Stetson Bennett. They cannot allow him to become comfortable in the pocket and make successful throws to fellow teammates Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey. The two players are Bennett’s favorite targets in the passing game. Michigan must account for wide receiver George Pickens as well.
Pickens could become a factor in Friday’s game if a mismatch is identified within the Wolverine secondary. Without question, Michigan has the personnel along the defensive line to make things uncomfortable for Bennett and the rest of the Bulldogs offense.
Pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo must be relentless in their efforts to disrupt the rhythm of Georgia’s offense. Offensively, they are not on the level of an Ohio State, but they can put up a lot of points if given the opportunity. Regarding the offense, Cade McNamara must play mistake-free football and not force anything that will allow Georgia to gain momentum. Running the football with tailback Hassan Haskins will be difficult, but a level of patience must be exercised when facing Georgia’s elite rush defense.
Georgia Bulldogs Keys to the Game
Michigan does not present the same level of firepower that Alabama had in the SEC championship game. However, the opportunity for Georgia to redeem themselves will no longer be there because if they lose this game, the Dawgs will be eliminated from the postseason. Georgia must dominate Michigan in all three phases in the Orange Bowl. They cannot allow McNamara and the Wolverine offense to have many opportunities to control the game’s tone.
Bennett must put the ball in the hands of their playmakers, Bowers and McConkey, which would allow them a chance to dominate. If Georgia goes into the half with a two-touchdown lead over Michigan, the odds will swing significantly to Georgia, leaving Miami with a victory. Georgia’s offense would utilize a balanced approach to put away Michigan from that point forward.
The game between Georgia and Michigan could start as a low-scoring affair, but the Wolverines do not have enough firepower to stifle the Bulldogs for an entire game. Expect Georgia to pull away in the second half and advance to the final round of the college football playoff.
3 Georgia 34
2 Michigan 24