So we can expect more, and much better in depth, looks at our upcoming opponent in Miami for the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve during the build up to the game next week, but let’s get a quick look in to open up the discussion.
We know about the Dawgs; our QB issues, our prior to the last game overwhelmingly dominant D, the bevy of RBs, and WRs hopefully getting healthy, as well as some of the best to ever don the silver britches at their positions in Brock Bowers, Jordan Davis, and Nakobe Dean.
But what do we know about Michigan, other than Yante Maten was from there? A lot of the focus has been on Georgia, and what went wrong against Alabama, and how this team is apparently in shambles after one poor performance following three months of excellence.
Well, for starters, they have an elite DL like us. Aidan Hutchinson got an invite to NYC for the Heisman ceremony unlike our beloved Jordan Davis, and the 6’6 senior DE will certainly be a handful for Jamaree Salyer and Warren McClendon (and Broderick Jones). The son of an All-American DL for Michigan, the young Hutchinson has all the stats and physical measures to be a possible #1 overall pick and draw JJ Watt comps as a DL that can do damage all across a defensive front.
Hutchinson is joined on the DL by a pair of bigger DT types in Mazi Smith and former Greater Atlanta Christian standout, and son of former Falcon LT of the same name, Chris Hinton. A strong group of fast, rangy LBs work behind them. And they’ve got solid DBs although they average less than interception per game (so not very opportunistic). They do have a high number of forced fumbles though, so we’ll need to protect the ball when running.
Another note on them defensively is their defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald. He has two degrees from UGA, and worked under Todd Grantham as a graduate assistant. Prior to joining the staff in 2010, the Centennial High grad (Roswell) coached at Cedar Shoals on the east side of Athens. I’m not gonna say his time under the much maligned former Florid defensive coordinator, and at the lesser program of the two Classic City public high schools is a good sign, but take all of that information as you will.
Offensively, they are led by 6’1 junior QB Cade McNamara but rely mostly on the running attack. Senior Hassan Haskins provides the power at 220+, while sophomore Blake Corum busts the big plays. McNamara isn’t much of a running threat, and they lack a go-to WR. That doesn’t mean they can’t pass, just that they’ll spread it around (their 20 TD passes have been spread among 10 different receivers, and no one averages even 3 receptions per game). It doesn’t seem too unfamiliar to the style of offense we’ve seen out of Harbaugh teams from Stanford and ever since.
Sound like anything we’ve watched this season? Probably should. To this uneducated eye, it looks like they do a lot of the things Georgia likes to do; focus on running the ball effectively and letting defense and special teams shut down the opposition, make a few passes when the opportunity shows itself, but don’t turn it over. Both teams have multiple RBs that have proven top notch, and do a good job feeding them. Both want to play physical on the OL. Both rely on a dominant defensive front to cause havoc and shut down the opposition. Both teams have a singular force on the DL that can change a game on their own, but surround them with countless other high caliber players on that side of the ball to punish teams who are forced to focus their blocking efforts to stop that singular force of a player. What can Kirby steal from his old friend Mel Tucker that helped the Spartans and Michigan St give Michigan their only L on the year?
So, can Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines out Georgia the Dawgs? Both teams want to play the same game, so in less than two weeks, we’ll find out which one is better at it.