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Takeaways from Michigan’s Orange Bowl loss to Georgia

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A day after the final whistle sounded at the Orange Bowl, we have reflections from what happened at Hard Rock Stadium.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Georgia at Michigan John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Michigan’s season came to a close on New Year’s Eve, falling to No. 3 Georgia 34-11. Here are takeaways from the game.

Stetson Bennett was lights out

Georgia QB Stetson Bennett was impressive with his legs and his arm, throwing for 310 yards, 3 touchdowns while rushing for 32 yards. Bennett consistently evaded pressure and delivered accurate strike after accurate strike downfield. He threw great on the run, threw great when blitzed, delivered accurate balls short and long. Bennett got into a good groove early in the game, and he never lost that groove as the game wore on.

Michigan lost in the trenches

Michigan’s offensive line was the Joe Moore Award winner this season, which goes to the top offensive line in all of college football. However, they didn’t play up to that high standard in the Orange Bowl. Georgia defenders continued to get into the backfield. The Wolverines have played bully ball a lot this season, but they were out-muscled versus Georgia.

On the flip side, Georgia’s offensive line played great and were able to neutralize Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. The Bulldogs o-line and d-line showed their strength in this one.

Georgia’s fast start changed everything

Michigan was down 17-0 at one point in the first half, and then were down 27-3 at halftime. While the game wasn’t ‘over’ at halftime, that hefty of a lead forced Michigan into a situation they haven’t been in this season, they never trailed in a game by a wide margin. Michigan’s rushing attack, which is one of the best in college football, didn’t gain traction, and the combination of a big Georgia lead and the lack of success on the ground put Michigan in must throw territory and the rest is history.

McNamara struggled, McCarthy showed flashes of his high ceiling once again

First things first, Jim Harbaugh said that Michigan has two great quarterbacks and makes no apologies for that. With that out of the way, this wasn’t Cade McNamara’s best effort. The Georgia pass-rush continued to get to McNamara and his mobility isn’t really in the same ballpark as McCarthy’s. After McNamara threw 2 interceptions and fumbled (albeit one he recovered), the decision was made to insert McCarthy after McNamara was 11-of-19 for 106 yards with those 2 interceptions.

Harbaugh said he felt it was time to bring in McCarthy due to him giving Michigan more of a chance to escape pressure and run. McCarthy made a few highly impressive throws and his arm strength and arm talent is evident, as is his ability to scoot with his wheels. Michigan wouldn’t have made the College Football Playoff without Cade McNamara, but it’s now the start of a new year and both of these players will have to state their case once more. May the best man win.

New leaders must emerge

Aidan Hutchinson won’t be back, neither will Josh Ross, Brad Hawkins, the expectation is David Ojabo will be turning pro as well — the 2022 Michigan Football team is going to look different from a leadership standpoint. Hutchinson said he’s already talked to some players about stepping up to fill the void left from a leadership capacity. Hutchinson thinks Michigan is going to give teams hell next year, Harbaugh called this the beginning. The foundation has been set, the template has been created to beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten Championship, now it’s up to the younger guys to grow wiser and become the ones to carry the torch and lead Michigan to even brighter days.

The loss doesn’t lessen Michigan’s season

When Michigan faltered in East Lansing, losing to Michigan State 37-33 the pitchforks were out again for Jim Harbaugh. Well, that dark day and the concerns raised turned out to be unfounded. Michigan went on a remarkable run in November with a huge win over Penn State in Happy Valley, and a 42-27 thumping of Ohio State at The Big House. And then they had one of the most convincing Big Ten Championship Game wins that you’ll ever see. There were downs in 2021, but the ups far outweigh any negative banter. A major tip of the cap to Harbaugh, his revamped staff, and the Michigan players for believing in themselves when the critics far outnumbered anyone who thought they had a shot at competing on the biggest of stages.