Last week, the Michigan football team relished a rare break from practice. Players returned home to spend time with their families, while the coaching staff put the finishing touches on a top-10 recruiting class.
Now, the switch has been flipped. The Wolverines are back in Ann Arbor, kickstarting their preparations for the upcoming College Football Playoff clash against Georgia.
On film, the Bulldogs’ uber-talented defense — ranked as the top-scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 9.5 points per game — stands out.
“Georgia’s stout,” sophomore running back Blake Corum said on Thursday. “They’re stout up front. They’ve got some good backers. … You don’t end up in the College Football Playoff without having a good offense, good defense, whatnot. They’ve got some good players, so we’ll keep preparing and we’ll be good.”
All of this presents an intriguing challenge for Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines, though known for a methodical, mistake-free style of football, have also flashed a penchant for explosive plays in recent weeks. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has seemingly opened up the playbook, utilizing an array of talented weapons and embracing a more creative style of play calling.
In turn, the unit has hit its stride in recent weeks, notching over 40 points in three consecutive games.
Georgia certainly poses a formidable threat to that streak. Though the Bulldogs are statistically the best defense Michigan will have faced this season, the Wolverines are confident in their ability to maintain their success.
“The O-line, they’ve just gotta continue doing what they’re doing and really just create those one-on-one matchups for us, whether it be the backer or the safeties,” Corum said. “As long as we get to the second level, we’ll be good.”
Last time out, the Bulldogs’ staunch unit proved vulnerable, surrendering 41 points to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, by far the most Georgia has let up all season.
“They’re a great defense, but there’s opportunities,” junior receiver Mike Sainristil said. “With two, two-and-a-half weeks of preparation, just continue practicing things that we’re good at. We’ll be good.”
Ample time between games can be both a blessing and a curse. There’s a delicate balance between overworking — and thus wearing down physically — and not working hard enough.
To navigate that situation, players are turning to the coaching staff for guidance.
“I think the coaches have a great plan to not kill us early, but get us right so we’re fresh for the game in a couple weeks,” junior defensive tackle Chris Hinton said. “I just really like their plan, trust their plan. We’ve been trusting the coaches all year.”
The crux of Michigan’s preparation for Georgia boils down to that last part — sticking to the tenets that have driven this 12-1 season. That includes viewing the Bulldogs as a “nameless, faceless” opponent and adhering to the mantra of going “1-0 each week.”
“The goal was to get this far, right? The goal is to keep going,” Corum said. “Our focus is the same. The goal is the same. We’re still approaching everything the same way. It’s working, so why change it?”