It took him seven years, but Jim Harbaugh has finally led his Michigan Wolverines to the College Football Playoff for the first time. And what does he get as a reward? The Georgia Bulldogs, a team widely regarded as the best in the country all season up until the SEC Championship Game.
Alabama proved Georgia wasn’t invincible with a dominant win in the conference title game, but the Bulldogs still find themselves as hefty favorites over the Wolverines in the 2021 Orange Bowl. So, how can we make some money on this highly anticipated semifinal matchup?
Just a few weeks ago, Georgia looked to be on a collision course with the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs barely had to play their starters in the second half of games for most of the year, and they were clearly the most complete team in the country throughout the regular season.
But their early championship parade came to a screeching halt earlier this month when Alabama torched Georgia’s defense for 536 yards in a 41-24 victory in the SEC Championship Game. Still, Kirby Smart’s crew enters the CFP as the No. 3 seed with the second-best odds to win the title (+140).
Michigan was largely written off as a CFP contender after it lost to Michigan State back in October, but the Wolverines clawed their way back into the championship race with impressive wins over Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa down the stretch. Harbaugh’s defense has paved the way for much of the season, but his offense is now as dangerous as anyone’s in the country.
Over the last three games, Michigan is averaging 47.7 points and outscoring its opponents by 31.7 points per contest. The running game is humming along as it has all season, quarterback Cade McNamara looks as confident as he ever has under center, and Big Blue won’t be scared of Georgia’s vaunted defense.
Still, Vegas projects the Bulldogs as significant favorites over the Wolverines in the Orange Bowl, with the total hovering in the mid-40s.
Point Spread: Georgia -7.5 (-110)
Point Total: 45 (-110)
Moneyline: Georgia -300, Michigan +235
Orange Bowl predictions
With Alabama sitting as nearly a two-touchdown favorite against Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl, the matchup between Georgia and Michigan might be the only semifinal game to come down to the wire.
The Orange Bowl will be a fascinating display of strength versus strength, as Michigan’s 10th-ranked rushing offense prepares to do battle against Georgia’s third-ranked rushing defense. Neither McNamara nor Stetson Bennett will be breaking any passing records in this game, but both quarterbacks have been efficient enough to get their teams to the CFP.
It’s an overused cliché in football, but this game really will come down to who wins in the trenches. And after Georgia got embarrassed by Alabama in that regard, expect them to dominate both sides of the line of scrimmage on their way to an Orange Bowl victory.
Georgia/Michigan UNDER 45 (-110)
I could see this game playing out in a few ways.
- Georgia’s defense rediscovers its swagger, shuts down Michigan’s run game, and tortures McNamara for four quarters
- Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo make it impossible for Georgia to move the football, Michigan’s run game does just enough to keep the game close, and McNamara has a chance to win it late.
I wouldn’t be surprised with a Georgia blowout or a Michigan outright win, so I’m staying away from the spread here. The one thing that would surprise me, however, would be a shootout.
Both of these teams rely on their defenses to win games. Both want to run the ball to keep the pressure off their unremarkable quarterbacks. And I can’t see McNamara or Bennett lighting up the scoreboard against an elite defensive unit.
This is going to be an old-fashioned slugfest in the trenches, and I don’t see enough explosive plays from either side to get this over the total of 45.
All betting odds courtesy of DraftKings as of 12/30/2021.
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