Georgia Bulldogs vs. Michigan Wolverines: Orange Bowl, College Football Playoff Prediction & Game Preview - 12/31/2021

by Chuck Sommers

Capital One Orange Bowl: College Football Playoff Semifinal

Game time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
Where to watch: ESPN

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: Georgia -8.5
BetMGM: Georgia -7.5
Caesars: Georgia -8

Season record
No. 3 Georgia: 12-1
No. 2 Michigan: 12-1 (Big Ten champs)

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Georgia - Michigan preview and analysis


After a long time waiting, the Michigan Wolverines will get the opportunity to play for a national championship. To get there, they have to go through, arguably, the best defense in college football in the Georgia Bulldogs.

The term “arguably” wouldn’t have been there under any premise if the Bulldogs won the SEC Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Georgia lost 41-24 and fell from 1 to 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

But despite looking vulnerable for the first time all season, the Bulldogs enter the Orange Bowl favored by a shade over a touchdown against a Michigan team that won five straight to close the season. That included dominant wins over the Ohio State Buckeyes and Iowa Hawkeyes (conference championship game) to get to this point.

The Wolverines had their best season under Jim Harbaugh since he came aboard, putting together a defense that gave up 16.1 points per game this season and held teams to just 316 yards per game.

Anchored by Heisman finalist Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan held Iowa to just 3 points in the Big Ten title game and just 279 total yards. Michigan, led by quarterback Cade McNamara and running back Hassan Haskins, Michigan has a complete attack that can rival most teams in the country, including a potential matchup with the Crimson Tide in the CFP title game.

Of course, that hinders on the Cincinnati Bearcats from becoming the ultimate Cinderellas and pulling off such an upset against Alabama.

Notwithstanding, Georgia still has a defense worth fearing. Even though they couldn’t stop Bryce Young and the Alabama offense from putting up a season-high 41 points on their defense, the Bulldogs still gave up just 9.5 points this season and will be a formidable test for the Wolverines to get to the national championship game.

The key is the offense and if quarterback Stetson Bennett can’t be that breakthrough guy throwing the ball, it’s going to be a long New Year’s Eve for Georgia. The offense scored almost 40 points a game because of how little the defense was on the field. Bennett needs to have a huge game against this stout Michigan pass rush.

Bennett actually played decently against Alabama, throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but two costly interceptions essentially put the game away while Young threw for 421 and three scores. It also didn’t help Georgia that its running game finished with 109 yards on just 30 carries. James Cook had a team-high 38 yards while Zamir White had only 27 yards on seven carries.

Can’t do that against Alabama, and surely can’t do that against Michigan. 

Prediction


I understand there’s still that overall theme of not trusting Michigan, but you can in this stage. The fact they’re getting that many points seems too good to be true. I like Michigan outright, but if you want to take the points, be my guest. Michigan by 10

Betting trends


Georgia is 20-17 ATS in its last 37 games.

Georgia is 11-4 ATS following games where they did not cover.

Georgia is 5-6 ATS when allowing 125 rushing yards or less in three previous games.

Michigan is 14-9 ATS following a conference game in its last 23 games.

Michigan is 15-3 straight up in its last 18 after covering.

Statistical leaders


Georgia:
Passing: Stetson Bennett – 2,325 yards, 24 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Zamir White – 718 yards, 10 TD
Receiving: Brock Bowers – 791 yards, 11 TD
Defense: Nakobe Dean – 61 tackles, 5 sacks

Michigan:
Passing: Cade McNamara – 2,470 yards, 15 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Hassan Haskins – 1,288 yards, 20 TD
Receiving: Cornelius Johnson – 609 yards, 3 TD
Defense: Aidan Hutchinson – 14 sacks

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Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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