No. 3 Georgia holds a commanding 27-3 lead over No. 2 Michigan through three quarters of their College Football Playoff semifinal matchup in the Orange Bowl on Friday. Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett has risen to the occasion on the heels of that brutal SEC Championship Game loss to No. 1 Alabama, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
But, as he been the case throughout most of the year, it's that vaunted Georgia defense that has shined the brightest. That unit has held the Wolverines to 206 total yards in the first half, including just 58 yards on the ground.
If this stands throughout the final 15 minutes, Georgia will earn the opportunity to avenge that loss to Alabama on the biggest stage in the game.
How to watch Orange Bowl live
Game: Orange Bowl
Date: Friday, Dec. 31 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Hard Rock Stadium -- Miami Gardens, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
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Michigan vs. Georgia: Need to know
Georgia's run defense: Michigan thrives on its ability to run the ball, but Georgia suffocates opponents by stopping the run. Michigan's Hassan Haskins ran for 169 yards and five touchdowns while averaging six yards per carry on 28 attempts against Ohio State. Iowa's vaunted defense did a decent job of bottling up Haskins, but the Wolverines still managed to run for 211 yards and four touchdowns as a team against the Hawkeyes. It was the first time Iowa allowed 200 yards rushing this season. It was an impressive performance, but Georgia's defense is statistically better than Iowa's. The Bulldogs are allowing just 2.6 yards per rush attempt and just 81.7 yards rushing per game. Michigan ranks 12th nationally in yards per carry at 5.32. Two teams that Georgia has played, Kentucky and Florida, are among the 11 teams ahead of the Bulldogs in that category, and they had mixed results. UK finished with just 51 yards rushing against Georgia, but Florida did amass 161 yards on the ground.
Red zone battle: Georgia ranks first nationally in red zone defense while Michigan ranks seventh in red zone offense. Only five times on 64 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line have the Wolverines come away without any points. But they will have their work cut out for them if they reach the red zone against Georgia. Opponents have reached the red zone just 25 times against Georgia this season, and the Bulldogs have held them without points on 10 occasions. Just eight times has UGA allowed a touchdown to opponents on trips to the red zone.
Georgia's QB option: After testing positive for COVID-19 this month, Georgia's backup quarterback JT Daniels is back with the team and providing at least some element of mystery at the position. While Stetson Bennett has started 10 games at quarterback this season and figures to start again, Daniels is an accomplished player in his own right who gives Georgia another option if the offense sputters. The former five-star prospect and USC transfer has at least forced Michigan's defense to prepare for the possibility of facing a more pocket-oriented passer than Bennett, who is mobile and comfortable throwing on the run.
Orange Bowl prediction, picks
Alabama exposed some flaws on the back end of Georgia's defense, but the Crimson Tide did so with the help of a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Bryce Young and a couple of star receivers in Jameson Williams and John Metchie. Michigan won't be able to challenge the Bulldogs on the perimeter in the same way, and UGA's elite front seven should be able to contain the Wolverines' ground game. Georgia's offense can still reach a higher gear and it should have enough innovation left in the tank to find the end zone against a stingy Michigan defense. Prediction: Georgia (-6.5)
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