The game Michigan fans have been waiting for since the victory over Ohio State more than a month ago is nearly here, as the Wolverines are set to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
Kickoff for that game is set for 7:30 p.m. at Hardrock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, as the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Georgia is the best opponent Michigan has faced all season, mostly due to their elite defense, which ranks near the top of D1 football in most major categories.
To try to topple that defense, the Wolverines need to stick to their strengths and try to run the ball down Georgia’s throat. If they can manage to establish the elite run game that’s been their calling card all season, opportunities will open for them in the passing game.
Michgan hasn’t had to face a front as talented as Georgia’s, as the three-headed monster of interior defensive linemen Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter and Devonte Wyatt will cause problems.
Michigan’s offensive line, who recently was named the best offensive line in the country after winning the Joe Moore Award, will need to dominate off the point of attack and get an initial push in the first few seconds of run plays for the offense to be as proficient as it’s been all season.
As Richard Johnson broke down for Sports Illustrated recently, Michigan’s biggest pass plays of the season have come on in-breaking routes, and the Wolverines will definitely try to exploit Georgia’s busted safety rotation.
Expect Michigan to try a lot of routes that get their athletes in space, like the one Andrel Anthony scored on in the opening minutes of the Michigan State game, to test Georgia’s secondary. Busting out plays like this on shortage situations like 2nd & 2 might surprise a Bulldog team expecting a run-heavy attack.
In order to win this game, the Wolverines will need to dominate time of possession, running the ball to set up the pass while eating up the clock. A lower-scoring, uglier football game favors Hassan Haskins, Blake Corum and the Michigan offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, Mike MacDonald said earlier this week that the Georgia offense reminds him of Michigan’s, partially due to them also have two solid options at quarterback who may both get playing time.
“How the offense is set up is very similar to our football team,” Macdonald said. “They play complimentary football. They know where to go with the ball. The system is really complimentary, they make you defend the entire width of the field. And then with their play-action on first and second down game, they can get their ball to their guys. Don’t lack speed at any position and get it to ‘em at any part of the field.”
Michigan will need to bring pressure as they’ve done all season long, but they’ll need to be smart about it, as Stetson Bennett has shown an ability to read the rush well and make plays when scrambling out of the pocket.
Stetson Bennett showed Saturday one way how he will punish you for little mistakes. Rush him wrong, and he's out the backdoor. pic.twitter.com/dBC8GBXVrS— Richard Johnson (@RJ_Writes) November 16, 2021
Bennett is a smart quarterback who fits the game manager mold. If Michigan can manage to squash the Bulldog running attack, trying to make him win the game could be a good strategy for success.
When Bennett does throw, he’s likely to be looking for Brock Bowers, who has been one of the best tight ends in the country.
As our Trevor Woods broke down on Tuesday, Michigan will need to try and pick up on his tendencies based on where he lines up, as well as mix in zone and man coverage to be less predictable.
Based on both advanced metrics and the eye test, Georgia’s offense has not been tested a whole lot this season.
If Michigan can create pressure, keep the Bulldog offense honest, force a turnover or two, and dominate time of possession, they will advance to their first National Championship game this century.