If CBS Sports' predictions are correct—and they're usually pretty accurate—the Michigan Wolverines will have quite a challenging task to carry out on January 1 in the Capital One Bowl against the SEC's Georgia Bulldogs, the No. 3 team in the land.
Worst-case scenario for the Wolverines (8-4) would be a rematch with the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, which would have to lose to Georgia in the SEC title game in order to land in the Capital One Bowl.
The Tide opened the fall with a resounding 41-14 beating of the Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
For No. 21 Michigan, New Year's Day will be—if CBS is correct, of course—the final chance to make up for a disappointing season in which close losses to the now-No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (Associated Press) contributed to the demise of the team's BCS hopes.
Losing 26-21 to the Buckeyes hurt Michigan, which allowed just two field goals in the second half, but couldn't kick start its offense this past Saturday at The Shoe in Columbus. Somehow, the Wolverines held the Irish's offense in check but still lost, 13-6.
Those losses could be viewed in a positive light by the optimistic Maize and Blue fanbase. However, those who choose to view Michigan's 8-4 season differently would say that the Wolverines folded in the form of a five-turnover game against the Irish and shot themselves in the foot against the Buckeyes, who didn't exactly dominate from start to finish.
Maybe Michigan didn't have the wherewithal that good teams have?
Some would say the Irish benefited from an incredible amount of luck and that Ohio State wouldn't have escaped 2012 without a loss had it played a tougher schedule. Sure, both teams were unbeaten, but they weren't the powerhouses that optimistic Michigan fans (and others) made them out to be.
The pair of losses to unblemished teams could be justified in a variety of ways depending on who's asked to justify them. But one thing is clear: If Michigan has the pleasure of drawing the Bulldogs, New Year's Day—and the Bulldogs—won't be so forgiving.
Are the Bulldogs the best in the land? If not, they're up there
There are plenty of solid arguments backing up Georgia's claim of being the best team in the country. Look at the Bulldogs' resume— it's impressive.
Georgia's only regular-season loss was courtesy of the South Carolina Gamecocks, 35-7. South Carolina is currently ranked No. 10 in the BCS.
A 14-6 victory over the Florida Gators, ranked No. 4 in the BCS, highlighted a 7-1 run in the SEC East.
If Georgia falls in the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Michigan will face a team with something to prove. That makes the potential matchup all the more dangerous, intriguing and fan-friendly.
If Michigan is blown out by Georgia, their loss would reinforce the idea of Big Ten football being on a steady decline, and would strengthen the argument that even "good" Big Ten teams are incapable of competing with the powers down south.
But a Michigan win would be both important and timely for the expanding Big Ten.
SEC star factor will trump Michigan
January 1 will likely be yet another example of the once-mighty Big Ten falling to the Kings of College Football, the SEC. Sadly for the Wolverines, there is little chance that they'll stop Georgia's Aaron Murray from having his way with their young, talented secondary.
Murray became the first SEC signal-caller to throw for over 3,000 yards (3,201 in 2012) in three straight seasons during the Bulldog's season-ending 42-10 dismantling of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
His trifecta has come against some of the top safeties and corners in the land—just take a look at NFL draft boards for proof of that.
Todd Gurley, Georgia's first 1,000-yard rusher since Knowshon Moreno (2008), ran for 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns this fall.
He'll be a load to handle—that's an understatement.
Michigan handled Big Ten running backs, but it was unsuccessful against Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, who accounted for 111 of the Tide's 232 rushing yards in their Week 1 trouncing of Michigan. Jalston Fowler also averaged 8.4 yards per tote in that game.
The Wolverines' struggles with SEC running backs will probably get worse when they face Georgia's Gurley and Keith Marshall, who rushed for 100 or more yards thrice this season (720 total).
Let's have a little fun.
Reading one of what is sure to be many Georgia-Michigan previews (from varying angles, obviously)—a game that's not guaranteed to happen, mind you—wouldn't be complete without a prediction.
So, based on what I've seen from Michigan in 2012, coupled with what Georgia has shown, I have no qualms about forecasting an embarrassing loss for the Wolverines.
Sure, I wrote that this year was bad, but not that bad, and I meant it. However, Georgia is just a different animal all together—an entirely different "league," so to speak.
Prediction: Georgia 34, Michigan 10
It wouldn't be a shock to see Georgia running backs combine for about 200 yards while Murray throws for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81