FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — On Friday, Michigan will play Georgia in its first-ever berth in the College Football Playoff. With the Wolverines’ identity rooted in their 10th-ranked running game, multiple players have experienced success on the ground. But throughout the season, their passing game has grown and become a significant part of the offense, too.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have a mobile quarterback in Stetson Bennett IV to add to a diversified running backs room. Bennett’s favorite target through the air, though, is a tight end — Brock Bowers — adding a unique look to the passing offense.
Ahead of the Orange Bowl, The Daily explores the numbers behind both Michigan and Georgia’s seasons.
Overall, the Wolverines enter the contest with the No. 10 rushing offense, the highest of any playoff team. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, average just under 30 yards a game fewer than Michigan, with 194.9 yards.
“The offensive line is the heartbeat of this team,” fifth-year offensive tackle Andrew Stueber said Wednesday. “So we take that on our shoulders every day to start moving the ball, moving the line of scrimmage, and so it really starts with us.”
Neither of the two teams are defined by their passing offenses, which rank 54th for Georgia and 67th for Michigan, respectively. In most other statistics, the two offenses are even, save interceptions. The Bulldogs’ quarterbacks have thrown five more interceptions than Michigan’s quarterbacks, with Bennett throwing seven interceptions and junior quarterback Cade McNamara throwing just four.
For Georgia, though, the offense isn’t its strength. Its defense is ranked second in the country in yards per game allowed, meaning the Wolverines’ offensive strength — their running game — will face the Bulldogs’ strength — their front seven. They allow just 81.7 rushing yards a game, while Michigan averages 223.8 yards a game.
But the Wolverines’ 12th-ranked yardage defense is elite as well, headlined by two top edge rushers in senior Aidan Hutchinson and junior David Ojabo. The pair has combined for 20 quarterback hurries, seven forced fumbles and 25 sacks, wreaking havoc in opponents’ backfields. In Michigan’s victory over Ohio State, Hutchinson dominated, showing his ability to perform in a big game while setting the program’s new single season sack record.
“(Ojabo and Hutchinson) present different matchups,” Georgia offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer said Wednesday. “Each of them are very good at different things, but very talented players, and I’m excited for the matchup. Obviously (I’ve) heard both their names pretty much for about a month now, so I’m excited to be able to spot the ball and go play. It’s exciting. I’m sure they’re excited to play me as I am to play them.”
From the beginning of the year, Hutchinson seemed primed for a great season. Ojabo, though, was more of a talent wild card — he had flown under the radar the prior two years before exploding on to the scene this year. Like Ojabo, this entire Michigan team has surpassed preseason expectations, while Georgia has mostly matched them.
That is, among other things, due to talent. The Bulldogs came into the season with the second-highest talent composite score according to 247Sports, with 1,001. Michigan, meanwhile, entered the season with the 15th-highest score, 832.
If recruiting meant everything, this playoff would be Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and Ohio State again. But it doesn’t, and through a series of breakout stars, disciplined play and relentless will, Michigan has worked its way to the No. 2 seed for a reason.