Friday was not a great day for the Michigan Wolverines. The main question heading into the Orange Bowl and the College Football Playoff was how the Georgia Bulldogs were going to respond to their loss in the SEC Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Well, the Wolverines got the physical, angry, confident Bulldogs team that wanted to make a statement. Michigan was just in their way.
Stetson Bennett was phenomenal out of the gates going 16-22 for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Georgia outgained Michigan 330-106 to open up this game.
Defensively, Georgia’s line was as dominant as many national media members expected them to be, even against Michigan’s award-winning offensive line. The front seven held the Wolverines to 84 yards on 27 carries. Pressure on Cade McNamara made it difficult for him to have ample time to find open receivers.
With little movement on the ground, the game laid in the hands of Cade McNamara who had far from his best performance. Two interceptions and few shots down the field were a recipe for a poor performance.
Michigan’s defense was supposed to go toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo were menaces in the regular season but were neutralized for most of this game. The bend-don’t-break defense didn't get off the field as Georgia scored on each of their first half possessions.
It was clear from the jump that Georgia was the better team with better talent. From start to finish they had control of this game and they pulled away as it progressed.
While this game ended the 2021 season, it does not discount what the Wolverines accomplished this year. Nor does it make Michigan any less deserving of their seeding in the playoff.
Jim Harbaugh was considered to be on the hot seat to begin the year as his team was unranked, coming off a 2-4 season. He didn't have a win against Ohio State, hadn’t won a Big Ten Championship, and failed to make the College Football Playoff through seven years.
As a team, they were expected to be middle of the pack in the Big Ten and had a 0% chance of making the College Football Playoff according to ESPN’s FPI.
But they proved doubted after doubted wrong this year. Michigan's year was filled with plenty of first. They accomplished each of the things that many said they never would with Harbaugh at the head. A win over Ohio State, a Big Ten Championship, and even being in a game like they were on Friday night seemed unfathomable even 365 days ago.
This team will be remembered as the best of the Harbaugh era to date. And there is a chance that title won't remain for very long.
Michigan will lose a lot of talent from this team. Hassan Haskins, Hutchinson, Josh Ross, and Brad Hawkins are the seniors who will be greatly missed. Several other studs like Ojabo and Dax Hill could be headed to the next level.
But there is still a lot to like about this team moving forward. Harbaugh has a coaching staff that is recruiting well and has the schematics to make a successful team each year. There is plenty of young talent in the bunch like J.J. McCarthy, Donovan Edwards, Blake Corum, and others.
Momentum has changed for the Michigan Wolverines and this program because of the success they had this year. For the first time in a long time, even after a game like this, it feels like it is truly great to be a Michigan Wolverine.