Georgia vs. Michigan: Odds and Score Prediction for Orange Bowl 2021

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2021

Georgia vs. Michigan: Odds and Score Prediction for Orange Bowl 2021

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    The Michigan Wolverines and Georgia Bulldogs are slated to play in one of two College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year's Eve, with both teams out to prove something. 

    Michigan is looking to re-establish itself as a true national title contender. Since the inception of the playoff system in 2014, Ohio State has been the only Big Ten team to find success in the playoffs. The Michigan State Spartans are the only other conference representative, and that didn't go so well (38-0 loss to Alabama in 2015). 

    For Georgia, it's a shot at redeeming its disappointing SEC Championship Game appearance and getting back to the championship game. The Bulldogs played for it all in 2017 but lost to Alabama in the National Championship Game 26-23. 

    Despite wins over Ohio State and Iowa to end the season, the Wolverines will come into this one playing the role of underdog. Here's a look at the latest line, odds and over/under for the game as well as a preview of what to watch for. 

Orange Bowl 2021 Odds

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    Spread: Georgia (-7.5)

    Over/Under: 45 total points

    Moneyline: Georgia -290 (bet $290 to win $100); Michigan +230 (bet $100 to win $230)

    Via DraftKings Sportsbook

Georgia Keys to Victory

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    Get the Run Game Going Early

    While Alabama's offense got a lot of the credit for handing Georgia its first loss of the season, the defense deserved recognition as well. That's because it did a great job of putting a damper on the Bulldog's ground game. 

    Georgia was held to 3.6 yards per carry. That's a far cry from the 5.2 yards it averaged all season. 

    That forced Stetson Bennett to throw 48 times, and while he supplied 340 yards and three touchdowns, he also threw two costly interceptions. This is a Georgia offense that's predicated on running the ball well. 

    Michigan's defense has been stout against the run all season. It is giving up just 3.5 yards per carry over the season, so Georgia will have to prove it is more physical from the outset. 


    Force Michigan to Pass

    These two teams have similar DNA when it comes to their philosophy. Just like Georgia, Michigan wants to control the game with its rushing attack. 

    Starting quarterback Cade McNamara only had 19 pass attempts in the team's big win over Ohio State. He threw 24 passes against Iowa in the Big Ten title game. Conversely, he had 44 attempts in the loss to Michigan State. 

    The Wolverines will want to lean heavily on the running back tandem of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum. The two have combined for 2,227 rushing yards on the season. Winning first downs and putting the offense in passing situations will be key. 

Michigan Keys to Victory

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    Find Ways to Attack Georgia Secondary

    One might look at the 41-24 final score in the SEC Championship Game and assume that Alabama bullied the Georgia defense. 

    That would be incorrect. The Georgia defense has been nearly impossible to run against all season, and Alabama really didn't find that much success. It had 26 rushes for 115 yards and a touchdown, but when you take out Bryce Young's three carries for 40 yards, those numbers become much less impressive. 

    What really happened was Young, Jameson Williams and John Metchie III were able to find holes in the Georgia secondary. 

    Going with a high-flying approach is not in the Michigan wheelhouse, but offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is going to have to find ways to test the secondary. Whether that's going with a more balanced approach to first downs or utilizing the more mobile J.J. McCarthy at quarterback, sometimes it can't afford to just line it up and attempt to play bully ball on offense. 


    Slow Down Brock Bowers

    The Wolverines run defense is strong. It's always hard to tell how well a team will match up physically up front, but Michigan has given every indication that it can stay strong in the trenches against Georgia. 

    One thing that makes it difficult to do that against Georgia is the presence of tight end Brock Bowers. 

    The California-native provides enough blocking that he can't be discounted in the ground game, but he's also the team's most reliable receiver with 47 receptions for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games this season. 

    Whoever is responsible for covering Bowers is going to be in a tough spot. They have to simultaneously be able to come up and play the run but also be careful not to lose track of the tight end. Otherwise, Bowers will be taking a run defender out of the play or sneaking through the coverage for big catches. 


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    The line here seems a little disrespectful to Michigan. After beating Ohio State in the regular season, it was dominant against Iowa in the Big Ten title game. 

    But it really isn't clear how well either of those games translates to success in this one. Iowa's offense was nowhere near as talented as Georgia's. Ohio State's offense is as high-powered as they come, but it certainly didn't have the same kind of defense that the Wolverines will see in Miami. 

    Alabama's 41-point performance has taken some shine off the Georgia defense. But it doesn't change the fact that it was absolutely dominant in the regular season and only faltered when faced with a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback operating with some big-play wide receivers. 

    Michigan doesn't have the same threat in McNamara or McCarthy. While the rushing attack is formidable, it's going to take a great performance from the quarterback position to have sustained success against this defense. 

    Prediction: Georgia 24, Michigan 17


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