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3 Things That Worry Me About Michigan

The last time we played football, Saban painfully obtained the Mind Stone, and our opponent not only hit their proverbial womp rat with an updated T-16, but ROTJ’d their way into a #2 national ranking. Facing the best defense and best rushing offense we’ve seen all season…What, me worry?  

2021 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face a B1G team in a bowl game:

1) Normally a trip to South Florida would cause me great concern: players ignoring curfew, issues arising during trips home with the boys, final grades not up to snuff, etc. But Kirby Smart really has imprinted the Georgia football program with his stamp. And that stamp is #elite. I think these young men understand the task in front of them, and they are embracing the dedication and sacrifice it takes in order to accomplish the task. Whether they win will be decided on the field, but I feel good about how the coaching staff will plan, prepare, and communicate with the Bulldog players and get them to commit to what lies in store.

2) Georgia Florida Line is an “entertainment” duo, but what is the Georgia Michigan line? Currently it sits at Georgia -7.5, and it really hasn’t moved much since the College Football Playoff matchups were announced. It seems very little has happened with the rosters, and thankfully with COVID, so that the December 5th teams are pretty much what we will see on December 31st. I think the most volatile situation, or question mark if you will, is that Georgia Defensive Coordinator Dan Lanning was announced as the new Oregon Duck head football coach a couple of weeks ago. But with assurances that Lanning will continue in his UGA role through this game, those who set the lines have looked at precedent (see: Kirby Smart 2015-16 Alabama post-season) and decided the needle stays where it is.

3) Wally Butts, Vince Dooley, Ray Goff, Jim Donnan, Mark Richt, and Bryan McClendon all won bowl games in Florida as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. And all of those save Wally Butts defeated B1G teams in the process. If that is any leading indicator, I like Kirby Smart’s chances.

Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about a rare trip to South Beach:

1) Keep the Damn Ball. In example #2,782 of how Michigan and Georgia are similar, the turnover margin is (relatively) similar between the squads. Thanks to dawg_stats, you see that not only has Michigan thrown fewer interceptions (only 4 by starter Cade McNamara), but they’ve been successful on 3rd down. And not only do the Skunk Weasels throw only to their own kind, they protect the ball when running it too. On 548 rushing attempts, they’ve lost a fumble a mere 4 times. Georgia has lost the same number of fumbles but has attempted 15% less rushes.

So they protect the rock, they have a quarterback who is good on 3rd down and when facing pressure, and they are 19th in the nation in Time of Possession. The Georgia TOP stats might be a tad skewed with so many 4th quarters being devoted to 3rd and 4th stringers manning the defense, but the point remains: Michigan is not a team you can make mistakes against. They will hold onto the ball, they will move the ball, they will shorten the game, and they can surprise you (keep reading).

2) The sandlot. Since most of this audience lives in God’s Country, or at least harbors an aversion to eye-bleeds, not many of us have seen the Wolverines play football. By now I’m sure you know they run the ball well, have a serviceable quarterback, and a great defensive front 7. Did you also know Jim Harbaugh takes off his shirt at practice often? Apparently that is so they have something upon which to draw plays in the absence of playground dirt. But the sandlot plays are definitely in the maize and blue playbook.

You might have seen the halfback pass for a 75 yard TD in the Big 10 championship game vs. Iowa since that was televised. In the Ohio State game which had a huge TV audience, that school up north ran a Statue of Liberty to wide receiver AJ Henning that put the Buckeyes on their heels early. They completed a 35 yard TD flea flicker against Nebraska. And did you see the 34 yard TD flea flicker to take the lead against Wisconsin? These were all touchdowns, and all came in the 1st quarter or early in the 2nd. The M.O. of late has been to get a quick score early in the contest via trickeration and misdirection. And considering Khakis went on the record to say the Iowa halfback pass had been in the hopper for about 2 months, Wolverine OC Josh Gattis is ready to make those calls as soon as the situation presents itself.

Dan Lanning, he of the morning Georgia focus and evening Oregon focus, better have the UGA secondary on full alert. And not just concerned with coming up for run support.

3) Michigan is on a roll. Georgia… not so much. The last 4 games of the season are fairly comparable. Michigan faced Penn St., Maryland, Ohio St., and Iowa. Georgia faced Tennessee, Charleston Southern, Georgia Tech, and Alabama. So both teams have recently faced a top national power with an inconsistent defense, a conference foe that is halfway decent, and a team that couldn’t generate offense if it was reading a copy of Truly Tasteless Jokes.

During that span, Michigan converted on over 47% of it’s 3rd down attempts while UGA only converted 38%. The Wolverines actually increased their rushing efficiency, gaining each game in yards per attempt; Georgia pretty much declined in each contest. Surprisingly, UGA was 17 of 20 in red zone scoring opportunities over that stretch while UM was 17 of 19. The difference is that Georgia kicked 3 field goals that Michigan converted into touchdowns. They only had one 3 pointer in those 17 red zone trips, as 16 crossed the goal line. They are flat out playing good football.

Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia versus the Wolverines of Michigan. And as always…