It’s Georgia vs. Michigan in the Orange Bowl in the CFP semifinals

·4 min read
Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) moves the ball down the field during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Georgia and Alabama in Atlanta, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.
Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) moves the ball down the field during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Georgia and Alabama in Atlanta, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Georgia is heading to the College Football Playoff to face an opponent it hasn’t gone up against for more than a half a century at a site it hasn’t played at since before Vince Dooley was coach.

The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed and will play No. 2 seed Michigan in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 in a national semifinal in Miami Lakes, Fla. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

The 13-member selection committee dropped 12-1 Georgia down two spots after Alabama handed the Bulldogs their first loss of the season 41-24 in the SEC championship game Saturday.

A possible rematch with the Crimson Tide looms on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis for the national championship. Top-seed Alabama will play No. 4 seed Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31. at 3:30 p.m. ET.

“I think more than anything we've just got to come together as a team,” offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer said after the Bulldogs had a nation-leading 16-game winning streak snapped. “It's all about how you respond. I think for us, me looking at it personally, I think for our team it was a wakeup call. I think we needed one. We got a wakeup call from a really good team. If we get a chance in the playoffs, I think that wakeup call will help propel us forward. It's all about how we respond at this point. To me, that's the biggest thing."

More: 'It re-centers you, right?' Playoffs a chance for Georgia to pick up pieces from SEC comedown

It’s Georgia’s first appearance in the Orange Bowl since Jan. 1, 1960 when Wally Butts was coach and the Bulldogs beat Missouri 14-0.

Georgia and Michigan haven’t played since 1965 when the Bulldogs won 15-7 in Ann Arbor. The only other game between the schools was a 26-0 Wolverines win in 1957 also at Michigan.

"Tremendous, tremendous team," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said on ESPN about the matchup. "Great respect for Georgia. My brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is the head basketball coach at Georgia so in our household we find ourselves rooting for Georgia basketball and that always spills over to Georgia football. Ask my son Jack. It's going to a be a great task, big challenge."

It’s the second playoff appearance in program history for Georgia and the first for Michigan, which went 12-1 and won the Big Ten championship game 41-3 over Iowa Saturday night after starting the season unranked. It was the program's first Big Ten title since 2004.

"I got to catch a little bit of that game last night," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said on ESPN. "They looked incredible in terms of leadership, attitude. Hearing their guys talk after the game, it just tells you a lot about who they are and what they're about."

The Bulldogs were also the No. 3 seed in 2017 in Smart’s second season when it beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and then lost in overtime to Alabama in the national title game.

A No. 3 seed has never won the national championship in the playoff’s first seven years, but two 4 seeds have: Ohio State in 2014 and Alabama in 2017.

The Bulldogs defense gave up 421 passing yards and 3 touchdowns to Bryce Young and Alabama Saturday but will go up against a Michigan team that ranks 67th in the nation in passing (228.1), but is 10th in rushing (223.8).

Hassan Hawkins (1,228 rushing yards, tied for nation lead with 20 rushing TDS) and Blake Corum (939 rushing yards, 6.71 per carry) will go up against a Georgia defense that’s third in the nation against the run (81.7 per game) and in yards per carry (2.61)

The Wolverines are tied for fourth in scoring defense, allowing 16.1. First-year Wolverines defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is a former Georgia student assistant and quality control coach from 2010-13.

Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is third in the nation with 14 sacks and linebacker David Ojabo is tied for 11th with 11.

Michigan has scored 42 or more points in three straight games including in a 42-27 win over Ohio State on Nov. 27.

Georgia still leads the nation in scoring defense (9.5 points per game) and is second in total defense (254.4).

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Georgia football vs. Michigan in College Football Playoff semifinal

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