If you want to get your head around the oddity of a Michigan and Georgia rivalry, or Michigan’s resume against the deeper, more established Georgia football pedigree, you’re looking to be the crankiest of cranky football fans. This preview of the Orange Bowl in Miami Beach is for the latter.
MICHIGAN: There was a short bit of optimism after Harbaugh was hired in 2015, but quickly blew through the early bowl-eligible teams that were his first signing class. The Wolverines made a living out of mid-to-late season upsets of Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin. They pushed Ohio State into overtime before losing, and when they went to Penn State they stuffed Saquon Barkley to help win the Big Ten title game. The high-flying offense has somewhat lost some magic; they were 13th in yards per game, 17th in scoring, and 30th in yards per play. That offense seemed tailor-made for Kareem Walker, who created a lot of offense with his pass-catching skills, and for Zach Gentry, who caught a lot of first-down passes. Because of injuries, too many plays went to Chris Evans and Nico Collins, the former being Michigan’s third-leading rusher and the latter having three 100-yard rushing games in the last four games. Chris Evans caught 15 touchdowns, two of them from Brandon Peters. If neither is productive against Georgia, you can’t blame the quarterback.
GEORGIA: Clemson is a tougher matchup, but the Sooners are much better against the run. With a player like Jake Fromm at quarterback, the Bulldogs’ offensive line provides plenty of power. Sony Michel, who became more of a receiver as the season went on, caught 41 passes for 551 yards. The depth of this front seven makes it hard to stop Georgia, where I’d like to see the offenses share the field at least a little bit. Sony Michel is a monster runner, and Auburn is so bad they don’t have anyone capable of shutting him down. Both of Georgia’s quarterbacks make plays with their feet, but the most impressive thing about Fromm’s season was passing. He took 13 sacks (on 632 attempts) and hit the 60-percent completion mark for the first time. That he did it in an offense that was so reliant on scoring touchdowns, and even then only 41.6 percent of the time, makes him so much more valuable. A much bigger offensive line could help Inman’s run game.