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MVDs: Orange Bowl Edition

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NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Georgia at Michigan Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

You don’t defeat the Michigan Wolverines and their khaki wearing, milk chugging coach to earn a spot in the CFP National Championship without a total team effort. But even then some players are bound to distinguish themselves by their individual contributions. Those sterling performers are your MVDs, the Most Valuable ‘Dawgs from Georgia’s 34-11 victory over Michigan.

Offense: Stetson Bennett. The Mailman absolutely delivered on New Year’s Eve. After being maligned in the wake of the SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama, Bennett turned in a crisp performance, completing 20 of 30 passes for 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions.

His 3 rushes for 32 yards, highlighted by a 20 yard first down scamper, also seemed to keep the Michigan defense from being able to fully commit to rushing him. The offensive line also deserves a tremendous amount of credit for this win, but the way Bennett shook off the criticism, tuned out the distractions, and excelled just has to be celebrated.

Defense: Derion Kendrick and Nakobe Dean. I simply couldn’t decide between the two. Kendrick has two interceptions, one late in the first half and one early in the second, which halted any sort of offensive momentum the Wolverines otherwise might have built. He also added five tackles from his corner spot, and recovered from giving up a couple of early receptions. It was a bravura performance by one of the leaders of a secondary unit that also came in for serious criticism after the Alabama game.

For his part Dean registered 7 tackles, two of them for a loss including a sack of some technical brilliance.

He also forced the fumble recovered by Devonte Wyatt that staunched the Michigan drive that Kendrick didn’t end with a pick. As the saying goes, big time players make big plays in big games. Dean came up huge in this one.

Special Teams: Jack Podlesney. It turned out Georgia didn’t need either of Hot Pod’s two second quarter field goals to win this one. But we didn’t know that at the time. Arguably the greatest college kicker from St. Simon’s Island nailed a 43 yarder when one Georgia drive stalled to move the lead to 17-0. When the Wolverines finally got on the board with a field goal of their own Podlesny answered with a 28 yarder. He did pull a 45 yarder left in the third quarter. But on a night when the Bulldogs rarely punted, didn’t return many kicks by the Wolverines, and no one blocked a kick (although Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint came awfully close) Podlesny’s 2 of 3 field goals and 4 of 4 on extra points is worthy of recognition.

Go ‘Dawgs!!!