Georgia vs. Michigan score, Orange Bowl takeaways: Dawgs dominate to earn rematch with Alabama in title game

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- No. 3 Georgia crushed No. 2 Michigan 34-11 on New Year's Eve in the Orange Bowl, setting up a 2021 SEC Championship Game rematch with No. 1 Alabama in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide will meet in the title game for the second time in the last five years.

Georgia marched 80 yards on its first possession of the game and never stopped in the opening 30 minutes, becoming the first team in CFP history to score points on its first five possessions. While that didn't make for an exciting game, it at least allowed any neutral parties to get on with their holiday plans.

After Georgia took a 7-0 lead, the Michigan offense responded well and drove into UGA territory. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, a pass from Cade McNamara to Erick All on fourth down was off All's fingertips and resulted in a turnover on downs. A few plays later, Georgia's Kenny McIntosh took a hand-off on a sweep and surprised nearly everyone in Hard Rock Stadium when he pulled up and tossed an easy touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell.

From there, the rout was on. Michigan had its moments, but it turned the ball over on four straight possessions (two interceptions, a fumble and once on downs) in the second and third quarters to immediately destroy any momentum it was attempting to build. Georgia was not nearly as wasteful with its opportunities and looked a lot more like the team we saw during the regular season than the one that lost to Alabama in the SEC title game a few weeks ago.

Bama had an easy time in the 2021 Cotton Bowl semifinal earlier Friday, beating No. 4 Cincinnati 27-6.

That creates a rematch of the 2018 CFP National Championship, a game the Tide won 26-23 in overtime after pulling off a second-half comeback. Hopefully, this year's game will be just as exciting, or at least more exciting than the semifinals.

Here's five takeaways from Georgia's domination of Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

1. Georgia needed this version of Bennett

Bennett is not a highly-touted NFL Draft prospect. In fact, I'll be shocked if he ever takes an NFL snap. The problem is people know he's not an NFL QB and immediately write him off as the weak point of Georgia's offense. However, Bennett is also the same player who finished fourth nationally in passing efficiency. Sure, his deep throws scrape the clouds and could lead to rain. That wouldn't work in the NFL, but it seems to be working just fine for him at the college level!

Bennett finished the night with 307 yards passing and three while also using his legs to buy time and extend drives.

In Georgia's loss to Alabama, the Dawgs fell behind and found themselves chasing. Bennett struggled in that situation. He threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but he was picked off twice as well. Those turnovers destroyed Georgia's hopes of coming back to win the game, but now he'll get a chance to redeem himself in a title game rematch.

2. It's Nakobe Dean appreciation time

The downside of everybody on the Georgia defense being awesome is that sometimes awesome players get lost amid all that awesome. There was plenty of talk all season long about how Jordan Davis should be a Heisman Trophy finalist, and while I love Jordan Davis, I always thought the talk was silly because he's not even the best player on the Georgia defense. That title belongs to Nakobe Dean, and the reasons why were all on display in Miami.

Dean finished the night with seven tackles (five solo), a sack and a forced fumble as he flew all over the field and seemed to get to spots Michigan players were hoping to get to before they even knew they wanted to be there. He is an absolute pleasure to watch play.

3. Terrible night, fantastic season for Michigan

Recency bias is a monster. Just because we're the most intelligent species on Earth doesn't mean we have the capability of remembering anything that happened more than 20 minutes ago. Georgia's defense was dominant all year but then struggled against Alabama, so suddenly it stunk and was overrated by anybody who ever paid it a compliment. We can't even entertain the idea that it just had a bad day against a great team.

And people will feel the same way about Michigan after Friday night. It was an awful night for the Wolverines, but even if the season ends with a terrible taste in Michigan's mouth, the 2021 campaign was one to build on for the future. The Wolverines dominated all year long -- when they fell behind 7-0 to start the game, it was the largest deficit they'd faced all season -- and were finally able to get the Ohio State monkey off their back, beating the Buckeyes for the first time since 2011. They won their first Big Ten title since 2004. They won 12 games in a season for the first time since 1997 when they won their last national title. Aidan Hutchinson was a Heisman finalist. It was an incredible season.

It just had a terrible ending, and that's fine. Not every story can end with everybody getting what they want, but at least Michigan proved to the world it can get to the playoff. Before the year began, plenty of people -- including some in Ann Arbor -- were questioning if the program would ever get back to such a lofty status.

Need more college football in your life? Listen below and subscribe to the Cover 3 Podcast where we break down Georgia's emphatic win over Michigan on Friday in the Orange Bowl semifinal. 

4. Struggles continue for Big Ten teams (other than Ohio State)

Michigan was the third Big Ten team to reach the College Football Playoff in its short history, joining Ohio State and Michigan State. When Jake Moody's 36-yard field goal soared majestically through the uprights in the second quarter, the Wolverines became the second Big Ten team to score points in the playoff. That's not much of a consolation. The Mitten State's two Big Ten schools have now been outscored 72-11 in two semifinal games against SEC opponents. Michigan State lost to Alabama 38-0 in the 2015 Cotton Bowl.

5. Are we sure we want an expanded playoff?

OK, so this isn't really about either one of these teams, but after Alabama cruised to an easy win over Cincinnati and Georgia later spanked Michigan, we've seen the rich tradition of playoff semifinal blowouts continue. In a year when expanding the playoff has been a hot topic of discussion, the games themselves serve as a reminder that expanding it isn't likely to change much. Sure, we might get an additional upset or two -- and that would be fun! -- but if we've learned anything from the CFP era, it's that there are rarely more than two elite teams in any given season.

Expanding the playoff probably won't do much to change that, and instead, it may only provide us with more blowouts.

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@ESPNCFB via Twitter
January 1, 2022, 4:29 AM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
January 1, 2022, 4:08 AM
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There are a lot of people who bet the over/under who are still very interested in the final three minutes of this game.

January 1, 2022, 3:54 AM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
January 1, 2022, 3:51 AM
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@GeorgiaFootball via Twitter
January 1, 2022, 3:22 AM
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TOUCHDOWN GEORGIA

They're still playing the game, and Georgia is back to scoring points. Stetson Bennett's third touchdown toss of the night is a 39-yard wheel route to James Cook, who gets behind the Michigan defense and scores with ease. It's 34-3 with 11:11 left.

January 1, 2022, 3:19 AM
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TURNOVER ON DOWNS

Cade McNamara has Mike Sainristil open on a 4th and 6 but over throws him. It's not a traditional turnover, but it is another version of a turnover. Anyway, whether traditional or not, it's another Michigan possession that ends without points, which will not help Michigan erase the 24-point deficit it's currently facing.

January 1, 2022, 3:12 AM
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MISSED FIELD GOAL

Georgia misses a 45-yard field goal, but it did managed to take 5.5 minutes off the clock before doing so, which is probably more important than the field goal at this point. It's still 27-3 late in the third quarter.

January 1, 2022, 3:04 AM
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