Georgia enter college football playoff title game with Michigan rout
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla .– After guiding his team to a 34-11 victory over Michigan’s No.2 in a college football playoff semi-final at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Friday night, Georgia coach Kirby Smart was not interested in getting a Gatorade Shower celebration from his players.
“I’m not interested in celebrating this,” Smart said. “We will come back to that victory and it will be great, but we are focused on the task ahead, and that is the goal. They worked hard for three to four weeks to get that opportunity, and it was a season of a game, and now it’s another season of a game. “
The task ahead is monumental: The victory gives Georgia No.3 another chance to try to beat No.1 Alabama and finally end a 41-year drought without a national championship.
Less than a month after the Bulldogs first fell this season to Crimson Tide 41-24 in the SEC Championship game, they earned a rematch by dismantling the Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium.
Georgia will face Alabama in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T on January 10 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App) in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs will look to end a seven-game losing streak against the Crimson Tide.
“I really never had any questions about this team,” said Smart. “The resilience, the bounce, the amount of character – I’ve seen it all year round. We didn’t play well, and we turned the ball around and didn’t have any turnovers and played poorly in the zone. red You can list all the things we did in the last game. That’s all our kids have heard about in the last three weeks.
Georgian linebacker Nakobe Dean echoed his coach’s sentiments when asked about Queen’s iconic song “We Are the Champions” performed during the trophy presentation.
“Not at all champions. The job is not done, ”Dean said. “We haven’t done everything we’ve done all season just to win the Orange Bowl.”
Smart will try to beat his mentor, Nick Saban, for the first time after losing four times in a row. The Bulldogs had a lead in each of those four losses, including double-digit leads in three of them. Saban is 25-1 against his former assistants, losing to Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher for the first time this season.
This is the second time that Alabama and Georgia have participated in a CFP national championship; the Tide won 26-23 in overtime in Atlanta at the end of the 2017 season.
Georgia will try to win its first national championship since 1980. Alabama will seek to win its seventh under Saban since 2009 and consecutive titles for the second time in its mandate (2011-12). Saban’s teams are 9-2 against the Bulldogs while coaching at LSU and Alabama.
It was a rebounding performance for the Bulldogs, who appeared to be outmatched in their horrific loss to the Tide on December 4. They overwhelmed Michigan, which was playing for the first time in the CFP and experiencing a renaissance under coach Jim Harbaugh. Georgia scored in each of their first five possessions and never kicked (time passed in their last practice) to take a 27-3 lead at halftime. The Bulldogs are the first team to score in their first five possessions in a CFP game.
Georgia put the finishing touches to the Wolverines when quarterback Stetson Bennett landed a 39-yard touchdown pass to running back James Cook on the left sideline with 11:11 to take a 31-point lead. Bennett, who was punched in the back by Michigan linebacker Michael Barnett just after throwing, raised his arms after Cook slipped behind two defensemen for the score.
Bennett, a former substitute, played one of the best games of his college career, completing 20 of 30 passes for 313 yards with three touchdowns. It was a much better performance than against Alabama last time around.
“I didn’t go there and didn’t play well today despite the people,” Bennett said. “I came there and played well and worked hard in the few weeks that we had because my teammates needed me to do it, and we needed it to win.”
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and went 80 yards in seven games for a touchdown, Bennett tossing a 9-yard touchdown at rookie Brock Bowers for a 7-0 lead. It was the 12th reception for Bowers, who set a single-season record in Georgia.
Meanwhile Michigan, which had scored 143 points in its previous three games, couldn’t muster much against a Georgian defense that was surprisingly vulnerable against the Crimson Tide in its last game. The Wolverines returned the ball three times, gave up four sacks and went 1-3 in the red zone.
The Wolverines were stopped fourth at Georgia 41 on their first possession. The Michigan offense only had one play of over 20 yards in the first half – a 42 yard pass to Roman Wilson at Georgia 19. But then the Bulldogs sacked Cade McNamara for an eight loss. yards on the next play, and Michigan had to settle for Jake Moody’s 36-yard field goal.
With Georgia throwing a myriad of screen passes, it didn’t allow for a sack and limited All-American Aidan Hutchinson to four tackles and a single tackle for loss. All-Big Ten linebacker David Ojabo had no tackles. Conversely, McNamara came under pressure on nine of his first 24 retirements and was never able to get comfortable in the pocket.
All hopes of Michigan’s comeback in the second half were lost after returning the ball to each of its opening possessions. Georgian Derion Kendrick intercepted McNamara’s pass in the end zone, then Devonte Wyatt recovered Blake Corum’s fumble at Georgia 47.
It was a disappointing end for the Wolverines, who won their first Big Ten title in 17 years to reach the CFP. They had won their previous five games, including a 42-27 loss to rival Ohio State and a 42-3 loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. However, not everything that had worked for the past two months was up to Georgia’s speed.
“It’s been a great season,” said Harbaugh. “For me it’s one of the best seasons in Michigan football history. We were trying to improve it. We were trying to improve it tonight. But it was still a great season.”