Orange Bowl matchups: 3 advantages Georgia's offense has on Michigan
Georgia enters the Orange Bowl with a daunting task of trying to make gains against a Michigan defense led by 2 of the best defensive ends in the country in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who have combined for 25 sacks.
As a team, Michigan is 20th in the country in rushing defense, allowing 121.5 yards per game. Georgia’s rushing offense is ranked No. 31 in the country after collecting 195 rushing yards per game.
Perhaps most impressive is Georgia is No. 7 in the country in scoring offense at 39.4 points per game. Michigan, meanwhile, is tied for 4th at 16.1 points per game allowed on defense.
Here are 3 advantages Georgia’s offense has on the Wolverines:
Georgia lacks a dominant rusher, but the Bulldogs make up for that with a deep backfield: Zamir White, James Cook, Kenny McIntosh all average more than 5 yards per carry. So does QB Stetson Bennett, who has provided his share of key runs to extend drives.
Georgia had a mixed bag against ranked opponents from a rushing perspective. It did well against Arkansas and Kentucky with 273 yards and 166 yards, with a combined 4 touchdowns. But the Dawgs struggled against Clemson and Alabama, as Georgia went for 121 and 109 yards without a touchdown in either game.
White has the rare combination of power and speed that has helped him lead the team in rushing with 718 yards and 10 touchdowns. The program known as “RBU” has plenty of options, but they start with White.
Nobody bringing down Zamir White. pic.twitter.com/3Kori1FX6d
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 9, 2021
Georgia’s sensational freshman tight end is in a class by himself no matter if you look at the SEC, or the Big Ten.
He has 47 catches for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns. The top 3 players in the SEC for receiving touchdowns have 15, 11 and 11. In the Big Ten, it’s 13, 12 and 12, though the Big Ten’s tight end leader in touchdowns is Maryland’s Chigoziem Okonkwo with just 5 scores.
Bowers has not been slowed this season. Bowers had 4 games of at least 100 yards receiving, and 6 games with at least 4 catches. Against Alabama, Bowers had 10 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Because Michigan plays heavy man-to-man coverage, the Wolverines will likely need to come up with a custom defense to slow Bowers with some hybrid of safeties helping linebackers.
Stetson Bennett’s scrambling
One of the main reasons Bennett set himself apart from JT Daniels is his ability to find the first down market amid a collapsing pocket. That could come in handy against those dynamic Michigan pass rushers. In terms of Big Ten quarterbacks who have similar traits, Michigan faced Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez, who rushed 8 times for 38 yards and a touchdown against the Wolverines. Rutgers QB Noah Vedral rushed 11 times for 46 yards against Michigan.
Bennett averages 20 yards per game rushing, but he had 4 games this season where he collected at least 35 yards rushing. His best game may have been against Tennessee, where he went for 40 yards on 8 carries and a touchdown.
Bennett’s struggles against Alabama may have clouded the overall picture that he’s 9-1 as a starter this season. But fans are still concerned about whether the former walk-on has what it takes to help lead the Bulldogs to their first national title since 1980.
“I’ve got all the faith in Stetson,” running back James Cook said, per OnlineAthens. “I’m going to ride with Stetson until the end. He got us to this point now, so what’s the point of getting him out of that situation that he ain’t been in?”
Bennett overall has 251 rushing yards on the season, and he is 4th in the nation in passing efficiency at 193.8 with 24 touchdown passes to 7 interceptions while completing 64.1% of his passes.
He didn’t play well enough against Alabama, and the final score reflected it. But if he plays like he did most of the season, that could make the difference in whether Georgia makes it back to the national title game for the 2nd time in 5 seasons.