The long wait is finally over as it is gameday for the Michigan Wolverines. A matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs awaits for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines in their first College Football Playoff appearance. Meanwhile, Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs were the consensus No. 1 team in the country for a majority of the season before falling to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game. They’ll look to bounce back against a Wolverines squad coming off their first win over Ohio State since 2011 and first ever Big Ten Championship Game victory.
There will be plenty of superstar talent on the field for both squads, but right now an edge is given to the Bulldogs by our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, who lists Georgia as a 7.5-point favorite. A defensive battle is expected between the two sides as the over/under is set at 45.
Let’s dig into some players for the Bulldogs who Michigan will have to focus on to beat the odds.
Junior LB Nakobe Dean
Georgia’s defense has been the focal point of college football this season. Every analyst in the national ogled at how well it performed, allowing less than touchdown per game to opponents prior to losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship.
A huge reason for that was because of the play of Nakobe Dean. The Georgia captain was named the Butkus Award winner, given to the nation’s best linebacker. This should be no surprise as he is leading the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and a tie for the team lead in sacks with five and interceptions with two. He also has 47 tackles, second-most on the squad.
Simply put, Dean does just about everything on the field extremely well and can disrupt any game he plays in. He can be a run-stuffer while also being proficient in coverage. That’s why he was named a consensus All-American.
The Michigan offensive line and Cade McNamara will have to keep their eyes peeled for Dean, who is the best player on one of the best defenses in the country.
Senior DL Jordan Davis
If you enjoy the battles in the trenches, the Orange Bowl is going to be the game for you.
Georgia boasts one of the best defensive fronts in the country with guys like Devonte Wyatt, Nolan Smith, Travon Walker, Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis. But the Wolverines’ offensive line was also awarded the Joe Moore Award for the best in the country. They conceded the fewest tackles for loss (27) and third-fewest sacks (10) in the nation this season.
But one thing Michigan loves to do is run the football, and its identity is lacking if it does not succeed. If Dean wasn’t enough to worry about for the Wolverines, Davis and this defensive front certainly will cause some nightmares. Georgia allowed just 81.7 yards per game on the ground this season, the second-fewest in the country.
Both Wyatt and Davis were All-SEC first-teamers for their play in the middle of this defensive front, but Davis was a consensus All-American. He is one of the most physically dominant players in college football and will surely be a high selection in the NFL Draft.
At 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, Davis has the potential to be a large problem for the Wolverines in this game. They’ll have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at him and the other stout lineman Georgia boasts to make some holes for Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum to run through.
Freshman TE Brock Bowers
There has been no bigger newcomer in the SEC this season than Brock Bowers. The true freshman leads the team in receptions (47), receiving yards (791) and receiving touchdowns (11). That is nearly double the stats of any other receiver on his team. With those stellar numbers, he set Georgia single-season records for the most receiving yards and touchdowns by a tight end and was named the First Team All-SEC tight end.
Bowers has shown up in every big game this season. He had more than 100 receiving yards four times this season, including in the 30-13 blowout over No. 11 Kentucky. Then, in the SEC Championship, Bowers had 10 receptions for 139 yards and a score. Even as a freshman, he is keen on making the big plays in the seasons’ largest moments.
Now, Michigan’s defense has faired pretty well against tight ends for a majority of the season. It has allowed only 432 yards to the position this season in 13 games, a grand total of 33.2 yards per game. The best tight end against the Wolverines’ defense this year was Iowa’s Sam LaPorta, who had six receptions for 62 yards in the Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, who was the All-Big Ten First-Team selection at the position, had just two catches for 28 yards when he faced off against the Wolverines earlier this year.
Brock Bowers just went bulldozer mode for a TD pic.twitter.com/Fn95IhtzIq— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 5, 2021
Expect plenty of targets for Bowers in this one, as he has been one of the only legitimate options to step up this season for the Bulldogs. Stopping him with double-teams and different looks in coverage could be the key to making this Georgia offense one-dimensional.