Bulldogs are looking to play 'our type of ball' against Michigan
Georgia is hoping to overcome the devastating SEC Championship loss to Alabama
Athens, Ga. — Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith didn’t get much sleep following the loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
That sleepless night led to him reviewing the game tape, trying to see what went wrong against the Crimson Tide.
“I was just trying to see what we could do better,” said Smith. “I tried to find the things that we did wrong, places that we could have been better. I mean third down is what got us.”
A lot of Alabama’s offensive success relied on its ability to convert 50 percent (7-of-14) of third-downs it faced. Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young was able to extend plays all game, whether it was with his arm or his feet. The redshirt freshman ended up completing five passes on third down, which helped Alabama consistently move the chains.
Another factor was that Georgia wasn’t able to get to Young and bring him down. The Bulldogs’ defense entered the matchup ranked second in the SEC behind the Crimson Tide in sacks.
Despite missing Adam Anderson, the Bulldogs have several players that are ranked in the top-15 in the SEC in that category, including Nakobe Dean, Robert Beal, Channing Tindall and Travon Walker.
Georgia’s inability to get pressure on Young also made a huge difference.
“Everyone knows that third down is ‘Money Down’ in the SEC,” said Smith. “It’s kind of like in the NFL, and we did not do well at all on third down. We did not rush the passer well, either, and that is on me. It is just a lot of things that we could have done better.”
Seizing the opportunity
Georgia has since learned from past experiences and has shifted its focus.
The Bulldogs will now try and right the ship against Michigan in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Smith explained that Georgia has “new life” around the Butts-Mehre building.
“It is one game and you have to win to advance,” said Smith. “I think a lot of guys are ready to work and we are happy that we have this opportunity.”
The Bulldogs have been preparing for the Wolverines for the past week. That breathe of fresh air was surely needed and gave time for them to put things into a new perspective.
“A lot of people watch Georgia football for a long time and a lot of people didn’t get this opportunity that we have had and now that we have it we have to seize it,” said Smith. “I tell the guys every day, ‘let’s just come work. Let’s just keep putting one foot in front of the other one.’ It’s a great mentality.”
Facing a new foe
No. 2 Michigan plays a different physical brand of football than the Crimson Tide.
The Wolverines are mainly a ground-and-pound team, with one of the top rushing attacks in the country. They are led by running backs Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum.
Haskins has racked up 1,288 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 4.95 yards per attempt this season. On the other hand, Corum has also been efficient on the ground. He’s currently averaging 6.7 yards per attempt while totaling 939 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara has his limitations but is productive on the field. He’s completed 199-of-308 passes for 2,470 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. Backup J.J. McCarthy is also used in certain situations and is effective in short-yardage situations.
“They are explosive, they have explosive playmakers on the perimeter,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “They do a really good job of mixing run-play action. I mean some of their run-play action would remind you of our run-play action. They hit really big explosives off of their runs.”
The Wolverines are currently ranked the nation’s No. 10 rushing attack, averaging 223.8 yards per game and 5.32 yards per attempt. Recently, they were honored with the Jim Moore Award, which goes to the nation’s top offensive line unit. Both Haskins and Corum flourished behind the play of Michigan’s front five. The duo combined for over 2,000 yards and more than 30 touchdowns in 2021.
So, to have success, Georgia’s front-seven needs to bring pressure and make Michigan one-dimensional. That group wasn’t able to bring enough pressure against the Crimson Tide, so Bulldog defenders such as Smith and Walker are hoping to flip the script in the CFP semifinal.
“We just have to go out there and play our ball, our type of ball,” Walker said on Wednesday. “That is just being the most physical team on the field and not wanting anybody to run all over us or do whatever they do. We just want to go out there and play our ball.”