Almost everything this season has been a spin for No. 2 Michigan, the first team to start without ranking in the AP Top 25 and reach the college football playoffs.
« We’re happy to be here but not all happy to be here, « said Michigan’s manager Jim Harbaugh.
Reaching the playoffs in 2021 was always No. 3 Georgia anticipation, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion by November when the Bulldogs broke their schedule.
Not even a significant loss to Alabama in the title game of the Southeastern Conference could stop Georgia from doing so. But instead of jumping into the Orange Bowl semifinals with big wins like Michigan, the Bulldogs are trying to restore the invincibility they wore for much of the season.
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« You lose something and you keep getting better, » said Jordan Davis. « Of course, we won’t be the same team with Michigan from the last game to this game, but we just have to keep moving and worrying about ourselves and just preparing for the game. » -1) and Bulldogs (12-1), two historic programs that haven’t played in more than half a century, took very different paths to their meeting on Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Michigan, the most successful program in college football history, doesn’t fit the profile of an upstart, but few could have seen this breakthrough in the seventh year under Harbaugh has sparked new enthusiasm, ”said Harbaugh. « Yeah, let’s face it, it was slacked off a bit and I feel like our guys created something new and it was a good thing. »
With a 2-4 record in 2020, they took advantage of it Wolverines the doubters and critics of their trainer as fuel. Center Andrew Vastardis wore a Michigan vs. Everybody t-shirt to his Zoom meeting with reporters earlier this week.
« I would say the jersey really starts with fall camp and spring ball when we knew that a lot of people would count us out, « said offensive tackle Andrew Stueber. “I saw somewhere that there was a 0.05% chance of making it into the college football playoffs. A lot of people didn’t believe in us and that kept us going all season. ”
After the Wolverines bounced back 16 points from Michigan State in their only defeat on Halloween weekend in the second half The Wolverines got late to win at Penn State, broke an eight-game loss to Ohio State, and beat Iowa to win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004.
« I’ll definitely put that into this game and just ready to go out there and take whatever opportunity we get, « said Vasstardis.
Nobody doubted the Bulldogs would be a playoff contender this season. Led by a defense of blue chip recruits and future NFL drafting decisions, they allowed less than one touchdown per game on a 12-0 start – and then lost 41:27 to Alabama.
Georgia hasn’t had one since 1980 national title won more. While coaches and players aren’t worried about that, those who support the program do, and the Alabama loss made Bulldogs fans feel like it’s back on.
Smart said the key to returning was to one loss is to keep it technical and analyze what went wrong with the players.
« Don’t be judgmental, » said Smart. « Don’t say things, ‘If you do this, and if you do, you’ll hit your butt.' »
While Alabama defends Georgia with a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (Bryce Young) and an All-America- When the receiver (Jameson Williams) attacked, Michigan’s calling card is the racing game.
The Wolverines, led by third-team All-America running back Hassan Haskins, run an average of 223 yards per game, 5.31 per carry and have 39 touchdowns on Achieved ground. Georgia, led by Davis and all-American linebacker Nakobe Dean, was an immovable object against the barrel, allowing 82 yards per game, 2.61 per try, and only three blistering touchdowns.
« They’re definitely a physical team and it’s a tremendous challenge for our seven, « said Davis.
Michigan has used two quarterbacks all season and in backup JJ McCarthy joins starter Cade McNamara. McCarthy’s athleticism is part of how offensive coordinator Josh Gattis brings some variety and creativity to the offensive.
Georgia started two quarterbacks this season, with JT Daniels starting as QB1 before an injury opened the door to Stetson Bennett, to claim the job. Bennett, a former walk-on, will start the Orange Bowl after a tough game against Alabama.
« We just gathered around him and let him know he wasn’t alone with this, even though he had a lot of bad talk about it received it, « said recipient Kearis Jackson.
Daniels’ status seems uncertain after he arrived in Georgia a day later than the rest of the team.
Hutchinson and outside linebacker David Ojabo have received 25 bags together , just over 75% of the total amount of Michigan.
It will be up to Georgia to fight Jamaree Salyer and Warren McClendon to keep two of the best pass-rushers in the country away from whoever is quarterback for the Bulldogs.
« They present different matchups, » said Salyer. « Each of them are very good at different things, but very talented players and I’m looking forward to the matchup. »
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