The College Football Playoff is finally here. We are just hours away from watching the Michigan Wolverines and the Georgia Bulldogs do battle in the Capital One Orange Bowl. All eyes will be on whether or not Michigan will be able to run the ball on Georgia’s dominant defensive line. It’s going to take a complete performance from either team to come away with a win on the biggest stage. Here’s what Michigan needs to do to punch their ticket to Indianapolis:
Win the line of scrimmage
Michigan is obviously going to try to establish the run early as this has been their identity and their strength all season long. The problem, however, is that Georgia has one of, if not the, best defensive line in the nation. Luckily for Michigan, they have an offensive line that is built to compete with teams like Georgia. The Michigan O-line vs the Georgia D-line is the most intriguing matchup of the game, and if Michigan can run the ball like they did against Ohio State and Iowa, the sky is the limit.
Win the turnover battle
Turnovers can make all the difference in a game like this. With the play style of these two teams, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this be a low scoring battle that goes down to the final possession. One bad mistake that leads to a turnover could cost either team the game. The good news: Michigan has been tremendous at ball security this season. Cade McNamara has only throw four interceptions and Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum haven’t fumbled yet (knock on wood). If the Wolverines can force a couple turnovers and secure the football well like they have for most moments this year, they’ll be in good shape.
Don’t let Brock Bowers beat you
Georgia tight end Brock Bowers is a stud. There’s no other way around it. He’s a big target with wide receiver speed, and he’s going to have his plays in this game. Keeping those plays to a minimum and not letting those plays beat you is what is important. Against Ohio State, Michigan knew CJ Stroud was going to be able to find success, and he did. He threw for almost 400 yards. Michigan didn’t let him beat them, though. It’ll have to be like that tomorrow with Bowers. Michigan has to know that he’s going to do a lot, but that they can do more and still come out on top.
Get lots of pressure on the Georgia QBs
Stetson Bennett will be the main quarterback Michigan will see in this game, but Georgia typically also uses JT Daniels, and likely will tonight, too, if he is healthy and able to play. No matter who is under center for the Bulldogs, Michigan needs to generate a lot of pressure and take away that phase of the game. Georgia doesn’t have an explosive offense like Ohio State or Alabama. If Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo can get in the backfield like they’ve done all year long, Georgia’s offense is going to get one dimensional and will have trouble getting anything going. Georgia has faced two defenses so far this season ranked in the top 20 defenses. Clemson (9th), where they failed to score an offensive touchdown, and Alabama (8th), where they scored 24 and lost by 17 points. Michigan’s defense (12th in the country) can win them this game.
It will be crucial for Michigan to not play tight in this game. In some of the bigger moments of this season, Michigan has showed some signs of tense play, and it has often led to mistakes, and most of their turnovers have happened then as well. McNamara’s interceptions came in a one score game at Nebraska, the last possession against Michigan State, about to go up two scores early on Ohio State, and during a chance to pull away from Iowa early in the Big Ten championship. JJ McCarthy also had a couple fumbles late in the game against Michigan State. Playing tense leads to mistakes, which lead to turnovers. Playing loose, mistake free football will give Michigan a good chance to make it to the National Championship.