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We have been talking about this matchup between Georgia and Michigan for what feels like two months now, as the two teams prepare to battle it out tonight. For the past three weeks we’ve heard the back and forth about who should play quarterback for Georgia, with some fans clamoring for JT Daniels to see the field. But the main talking point surrounding this game should be about the Georgia rushing attack and how they’ll game plan for the Wolverines.
Georgia is a 7.5 point favorite over Michigan, according to FanDuel.
It’s easy to get caught up in the conversation on who will be taking the snaps and leading the team down the field, but what some have forgotten is that Georgia better figure out a way to run the football, or the season will come to an end tonight. The reason we are having this conversation dates back to the SEC Championship, where the Bulldogs thought it would be wise to only focus on the passing game of Stetson Bennett. Those were the words of Kirby Smart, who said postgame that his team knew it would turn into a passing game and focused on how to beat Alabama through the air.
Well, the focus against Michigan should be on how to get Zamir White or James Cook rolling in the running game. The Wolverines are going to bring the pressure, especially with Aidan Hutchinson coming off the edge and looking to put pressure on Stetson Bennett. So, the Dawgs must counter that, whether that’s finding the running back out of the backfield or the offensive line opening up gaps in the middle. There’s going to be pressure on Bennett and the Georgia coaches know this, so wearing down the Michigan defense should be a key component in the offensive scheme. This Georgia team can’t afford to not keep trying to establish something on the ground, because once they get away from it, Michigan will pin its ears back and bring havoc in the backfield.
Kirby Smart mentioned the physicality aspect of this game on Thursday, starting at the line of scrimmage.
“Yeah, to me being physical is part of the sport. If you’re not going to be physical you’re probably going to struggle. That starts with the line of scrimmage. There comes a point in almost every game where you have to be able to run the ball, whether that’s four-minute end of game stuff or that’s short yardage. There has to be a commitment to moving forward and putting your hat on people.”
In their last game, Georgia decided to steer away from the physicality along the line of scrimmage, with James Cook and Zamir White combining for only 18 carries for 65 yards. The Wolverines should be praying that Georgia gets away from the running game that quick, as it will only force more pressure on Stetson Bennett to throw the football. But, if the Bulldogs are going to wear down the Wolverines, they’ve got to give both of these guys more than just 18 carries, even if it’s not working right away.
For twelve games this season, Georgia made its opponents cry uncle, continuing to rush the football until they were defeated. There’s a reason why the Bulldogs coaching staff hasn’t needed Stetson Bennett to sling the football around consistently, because they trusted their offensive line to lead the way. Who knows how this plays out tonight, but they better go out trying to rush the ball, because the questions will come for Kirby Smart if they don’t. This week, Smart had this to say about putting his team in the best position to win.
“My job is to make sure we give our best shot to everybody we play. I’m not interested in the climb and the rise. What I’m interested in is being at our best when our best is required, and that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do every single game, how do we get it better. The process and the ride that you go through along the way, the bumps and the bruises, the injuries, the players in, the players out, all those pains are part of the ride and part of the process that you try to enjoy.”
If the process is going to carryover to Indianapolis next week, it will be because Georgia found a way to create plays on the ground, not only through the air.