Michigan vs. Georgia game preview: Will the Cinderella story continue for the Wolverines?

Trip to National Championship on the line

Roman Wilson #14 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates with Mike Sainristil #5 of the Michigan Wolverines after scoring a touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at Beaver Stadium on November 13, 2021 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Scott Taetsch, 2021 Getty Images)

MIAMI – The Michigan Wolverines and the Georgia Bulldogs will face off at the Capital One Orange Bowl of the College Football Playoff (CFP) semifinal inside Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 31. 2021.

Both teams are mere images of each other in regards to CFP teams.

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The defenses and run games

For the season, Georgia has allowed three rushing touchdowns and 81 yards on the ground. Michigan has the No. 4 scoring defense in the country as they hold opponents to 16 points per game.

Both teams made their name on the defensive side of the ball during the 2021 season. The Bulldogs, led by Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt of their vaunted front seven, are a dominant defensive team that likes to impose their will. Both players skipped the NFL Draft due to unfinished business on the collegiate level, and now they are one step closer to achieving their goal of winning a National Championship.

The unfinished business that Davis and Wyatt spoke of is exactly what made Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson forgo the draft and return to the University of Michigan. Hutchinson set the school’s single-season sack record at 14 while becoming the first defensive player to be named the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten Championship game.

Both programs pattern themselves as a run-first team that wants to play rugged and physical while also stopping the run of their opponents. Both schools hired former players to lead their respective programs back to prominence.

The coaches

AP Coach of the year Jim Harbaugh played quarterback for the men in maize from 1983 to 1986, where he was a three-year starter. As a fifth-year senior, Harbaugh led the Wolverines to the 1987 Rose Bowl while on his way to finishing third in votes for the Heisman.

Kirby Smart played four years at defensive back alongside Champ Bailey, who had a Hall of Fame career. Smart was a first-team All-SEC selection, finishing with 13 interceptions which is fourth all-time.

Harbaugh has the most experience as the leader of men on both the college level and the NFL. Still, Smart has the most experienced team in terms of playing for the National Title as his Bulldogs make their second appearance as a semifinalist.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches from the sideline during the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks on the field during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The two stalwarts resemble the immovable object and the unstoppable force.

An old-school tug of war battle looks to be upon the horizon; as mentioned above, Georgia’s front seven has been an actual menace to their opposition, but Michigan’s offensive line is in a lane of their own.

Michigan likes to give their opponents a steady diet of running the ball down their throat. Their duo backfield, rightly named Thunder and Lightning, consists of power-back Hassan Haskins and speedster Blake Corum.

This season, Haskins carried the load for the Wolverines as Corum missed time due to injury. Haskins’ dominance while toting the pigskin landed him atop the leaderboard for most rushing touchdowns in a season with 20. The senior passed previous record-holder Ronald Johnson who had 19 in 1968.

Meanwhile, a healthy Corum can turn nothing into something in the blink of an eye, just like he did in Indianapolis when he jolted the Iowa Hawkeyes for a 67-yard touchdown. Fans felt that electricity throughout the Lucas Oil Stadium.

Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) scores on a 67-yard touchdown run during the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Indianapolis. (The Associated Press 2021)

Based on their front seven, the Bulldogs had the number one defense all season long. But, when opposing teams can protect their quarterback, it exposed the Bulldogs’ defensive backfield, which is how they got boat-raced in the SEC Championship game, falling 41-24 to the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Coming off of a deflating loss like that, intertwined with the mindset of the Broyles Award winner Josh Gattis, Michigan has a chance to prove the naysayers wrong, but it all boils down to Gattis. Gattis came into his own this year as Michigan’s offensive coordinator. He seesawed from throwing the ball over 50 percent of the time to a run-heavy offense. Down the stretch of the season, he seemed to have married the two, which has the Wolverines honeymooning their way to a potential National Championship appearance.

Gattis has the No. 1 team in the country for explosive plays of 50 yards or more with 17. The man drew up a 75-yard double pass in the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship.

His multiple quarterback scheme with Cade McNamara and freshman J.J. McCarthy caused headaches for a number of coaches this season.

With Gattis on the call, Michigan has scored 142 points on offense while only giving up 48 in their last three matchups. Two of the three wins came against ranked opponents.

The money line and the fans favor Georgia, so if you are a betting man or woman, take the Wolverines in a final drive scenario.

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About the Author:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.