Breaking Down Michigan-TCU & Georgia-Ohio State

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Mar 6, 2018

Breaking down Michigan-TCU, Georgia-Ohio State​


This year's College Football Playoff is evidently brought to you by the number two.

Georgia is attempting to win title No. 2 under boss Kirby Smart a year after ending a four-decade title drought. Michigan is in its second straight CFP after winning Big Ten title No. 2 under Jim Harbaugh (and with a second starting quarterback). Ryan Day and Ohio State are attempting to take advantage of a second chance after thinking they had lost their playoff opportunity thanks to what is now a two-game losing streak to Michigan. TCU is finally in the playoff, having come so close in 2014 and waiting eight long years for a second chance. It has gotten to the promised land under Sonny Dykes, who had to wait six years for a second power conference gig.

All of this in the year 2022, no less!

The storylines are legion and the matchups are weird and interesting. Here's everything you need to know about college football's two biggest games of the season.


No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU​



CFP semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl
at State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App

How they got here​

Michigan: Michigan indeed rolled to its second straight conference title, escaping close calls against Maryland and Illinois but walloping Ohio State and Penn State by a combined 86-40. Over the past 19 games, the Wolverines are 18-1 with a loss only to Georgia in last season's CFP.

TCU: Dykes' first Horned Frogs team was the master of the close game. In a deep Big 12, TCU went 12-1, winning five one-score games with timely offensive flurries and excellent pass defense. The Frogs tripped up against Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, but their playoff résumé was already set.

SP+ rankings​

Michigan: Second overall, 18th offense, fourth defense, sixth special teams

TCU: Sixth overall, sixth offense, 33rd defense, 31st special teams

Key injuries and absences​

Michigan: Out -- RB Blake Corum (knee); probable -- DE Mike Morris (lower body), DT Mazi Smith (legal troubles), WR Andrel Anthony (ankle)

TCU: None

Corum, Michigan's biggest star, is officially out but Morris and Smith are awfully influential upfront for the Wolverines. Meanwhile, the Frogs appear to be the healthiest team in the CFP.

Active statistical standouts​


QB J.J. McCarthy: 2,376 passing yards, 65.3% completion rate, 7.8 yards per dropback, 20 touchdowns, 3 interceptions; 254 non-sack rushing yards (4.2 per carry); 79.1 Total QBR (15th)

RB Donovan Edwards: 874 rushing yards (7.5 per carry), 7 touchdowns; 192 receiving yards (11.3 per catch)

WR Ronnie Bell: 754 receiving yards (13.5 per catch, 8.3 per target), 62% catch rate (77% on catchable targets)

C Olusegun Oluwatimi and RG Zak Zinter: 0.8% blown block rate, 1 combined sack allowed, 8 combined penalties

Edge Mike Morris: 7 sacks (29 pressures), 3 run stuffs

CB Will Johnson: 3 interceptions, 1 TD allowed, 48% completion rate allowed, 17.3 raw QBR allowed

K Jake Moody: 18-for-19 on FGs under 40 yards, 8-for-13 over 40 yards, 66% kickoff touchback rate


QB Max Duggan: 3,321 passing yards, 64.9% completion rate, 8.0 yards per dropback, 30 touchdowns, 4 interceptions; 404 non-sack rushing yards (3.6 per carry); 79.9 Total QBR (13th)

RB Kendre Miller: 1,342 rushing yards (6.2 per carry), 17 touchdowns, 3.0 yards per carry before contact and 3.2 after; 116 receiving yards (7.3 per catch)

WR Quentin Johnston: 903 receiving yards (17.0 per catch, 10.5 per target), 62% catch rate (79% on catchable targets)

WR Taye Barber: 593 receiving yards (17.4 per catch, 12.4 per target), 71% catch rate (100% on catchable targets)

LBs Dee Winters and Dylan Horton: 13.5 sacks (53 pressures), 21 run stuffs

CB Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson: 3 interceptions, 1 TD allowed, 28% completion rate allowed, 8.5 raw QBR allowed

K Griffin Kell: 8-for-9 on FGs under 40 yards, 8-for-9 over 40


The 3-3-5 defense is having a moment. More than half of the FBS lined up with three or fewer defensive linemen at least 75% of the time, and 39 teams lined up with five or more defensive backs at least 70% of the time. Sacrificing size for speed is the norm.

Few are more orthodox in the ways of the 3-3-5, however, than TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie. The former Tulsa DC came to Fort Worth with Dykes, and unlike many, he doesn't use the 3-3-5 situationally. TCU lined up with exactly three linemen 99% of the time, exactly three linebackers 94% of the time and exactly five defensive backs 94% of the time. Whatever the question, the 3-3-5 is the answer, and after collapsing to 116th in defensive SP+ in 2021, Gary Patterson's final season in charge, the Horned Frogs have hopped back to 33rd.

TCU ranks eighth in completion rate allowed and 21st in raw QBR allowed. Gillespie doesn't blitz much, but the Frogs clog the field with speedy defensive backs and prevent easy looks. Per Sports Info Solutions (SIS), 39% of opponents' passes were "contested" by a defender, second-most in the FBS. Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy came up big down the stretch of the regular season, and players such as Ronnie Bell and Cornelius Johnson have had explosive moments, but if the Wolverines have to pass, that probably favors TCU.

That's if Michigan has to pass.

The Wolverines haven't faced all that many 3-3-5 looks this season, in part because it's not as common in the Big Ten and in part because sacrificing size against them seems like a bad idea. Their offensive line isn't incredibly big, but it might be the best in college football. Michigan ranks sixth in rushing success rate, and while Blake Corum was responsible for a lot of its ground success, Donovan Edwards has been immense in his absence. He averages 7.0 yards per carry outside the tackles and 7.6 inside, and he hung a combined 401 yards on Ohio State and Purdue in Michigan's last two games. The former top-70 recruit overcame a late-season hand injury to shine when needed.

TCU has faced some solid ground games this year, but few are as committed to mauling the opposition as the Wolverines. They run 66% of the time on standard downs* (national average: 58%) and 43% of the time on passing downs (34%). They use at least two tight ends on more than half their snaps, and they do a brilliant job of both staying on schedule (sixth in standard downs success rate) and avoiding setbacks (seventh in offensive line penalties per game, 23rd in stuff rate**).

* Standard downs = first downs, second-and-7 or less and third- or fourth-and-4 or less.

** Stuff rate = percentage of non-sack rushes that are stopped at or behind the line

After getting a sobering look at all of their remaining limitations against Georgia in last season's CFP, and after losing both coordinators to other jobs, Jim Harbaugh's program refused to reinvent itself. Instead, the Wolverines made their strengths stronger. The addition of Virginia transfer Olusegun Oluwatimi brought the offensive line to a different level, and changing from Cade McNamara to McCarthy at quarterback raised Michigan's overall offensive upside. McCarthy wasn't asked to do a ton for much of the season, but in those two late games without Corum, he threw for 424 yards, 6 touchdowns and 1 interception and averaged 18.4 yards per completion. Michigan doesn't bother with a horizontal passing game to complement the run game and doesn't seem to need to. It just does what it does really well and really physically.

TCU certainly hasn't been bad against the run. Just ask Bijan Robinson. The Horned Frogs held Texas' All-American back to just 29 yards on 12 carries in a 17-10 win in Austin, an offensively limited game that proved they are capable of winning in a few different ways. While the linemen are mainly there to occupy blockers, linebackers Jamoi Hodge, Johnny Hodges and Dylan Horton and safety Mark Perry have all reached double digits in the run stuffs department.

Still, the ground defense hasn't been amazing on average. The Texas game was more exception than rule. TCU ranks 69th in rushing success rate allowed and 61st in standard downs success rate. Once their opponent is behind schedule, the Frogs pounce, but we'll see if or how frequently they can push Michigan behind the chains.

This is an extremely Big 12 vs. Big Ten matchup. Just as it was the first major conference to wholly succumb to the spread offense revolution 15-20 years ago, the Big 12 has now become the source of quite a bit of defensive evolution and experimentation. While Oklahoma State and Baylor fell off defensively in 2022 after major attrition, Iowa State (seventh in defensive SP+), Kansas State (16th) and TCU boast effective 3-3-5 renditions, and Texas (14th) uses more varied looks but is still effective. On average, the 3-3-5 can probably stand up to the typical manball routine, but Michigan's version is ridiculously good.

How does a Frog, even a Horned one, beat a Wolverine?​

In eight seasons since the introduction of the CFP, we've seen 11 games with a spread of more than seven points. We got an upset right out of the gate (Ohio State over Alabama in 2014), but in the nine such games since 2015, favorites are 9-0 with an average score of 38-14. The average spread in these games was favorite -12.2, and they've basically doubled that.

The TCU-Michigan spread quickly settled into the Michigan -7.5 range, where it has remained through December. If you fear a "Michigan rushes for 300-plus yards and rolls" scenario, that's certainly on the table. Still, over the past decade teams favored by 7.5 points have won only 74% of the time. SP+ projects Michigan's win probability at 70%, FPI has it at 67%. There is a 1-in-3 or 1-in-4 chance of a TCU win, despite the CFP's blowout history, and beyond the Frogs stopping Donovan Edwards the way they did Bijan Robinson, there are three main keys to a TCU upset.

1. Max Duggan > J.J. McCarthy

This one is a must. Duggan was asked to carry a heavy playmaking load for TCU (and finished second in the Heisman voting because of it), but for the season these two quarterbacks' stats were almost identical. McCarthy took Michigan's offense to a new place with his sudden late-season verticality -- seven of his 23 completions against Ohio State and Purdue went for at least 20 yards, four for at least 40. TCU absolutely must make more big plays than the Wolverines. And while Edwards and TCU's Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado can all hit home runs in the run game, big plays typically start at the quarterback position.

TCU's passing game is a wonderful combination of scheme and pure playmaking.

The Frogs dominate in the receiver screen game. TCU ranks fifth nationally with 36% of its passes thrown to targets at or behind the line, and these passes have averaged a solid 5.8 yards per attempt. This serves as an extension of an already dangerous run game. Plus, 28% of TCU's passes were thrown to what SIS defined as wide-open targets, 16th in the FBS. TCU receivers, led by Quentin Johnston and Taye Barber, can take short, open targets and turn them into huge gains. When opposing defenses don't have the right numbers in the right places, Duggan takes full advantage.

Great scheme or no, sometimes you just need someone to make a big play, and TCU does that too. On second- or third-and-7 or more, Duggan completed 59% of his passes, over half of which moved the chains or scored. Plus, while the offense produced plenty of wide-open passes, TCU receivers also caught 40% of their contested targets, 14th in the FBS.

Michigan has faced only one receiving corps this talented in 2022 (Ohio State's), and the battle between Johnston & Co. and Michigan corners DJ Turner and Will Johnson will be popcorn viewing.

2. Turn contested passes into picks

For all of his obvious upside, McCarthy will make some throws that remind us he's still a true sophomore, and he has perhaps been a bit lucky that those throws haven't been more costly. Opponents have defensed (intercepted or broken up) 38 Michigan passes this season, and while national averages would typically dictate that about eight of those would turn into interceptions, opponents reeled in only four of them, three from McCarthy.

TCU indeed contests and disrupts more passes than most, and McCarthy was mediocre against two defenses that are particularly disruptive. Against Penn State and Illinois, he averaged just 6.1 yards per pass and 10.1 yards per completion with no touchdowns and a pick-six. This game could flip quickly if TCU reels in a couple of ill-advised throws.

3. Break even in the red zone

It feels like I write about Michigan's red zone troubles every time I write about Michigan. But for the second straight year, the Wolverines ironed out issues as the year progressed. Their red zone touchdown rate was just 64% over the first two months of the season (the national average is 62%), but improved to 75% after Nov. 1. Red zone failures nearly cost them the Illinois game -- they made four trips inside the 20 and eight into Illini territory but scored only one touchdown -- but they responded by converting every red zone chance into a TD against Ohio State and Purdue. It's hard for a team to lose when it does that, especially when paired with a defense that dominates the red zone (38% TD rate, third in the FBS).

Michigan appears to hold the edge in this department, but unless TCU is scoring on big plays -- a distinct possibility! -- this is an area in which the Frogs simply can't afford to fall behind.


Caesars Sportsbook: Michigan 33.0, TCU 25.5 (Michigan -7.5, over/under: 58.5)
SP+: Michigan 32.3, TCU 23.3

It's clear that Michigan holds more of the edges, but TCU will have its chances.

Chances for either team might come later on, as both Michigan and TCU are second-half teams. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Michigan's plus-206 second-half scoring margin is the second-best of the past 15 seasons (Florida State was plus-243 during its 2013 national title run). TCU, meanwhile, has won five games when trailing in the second half. The Frogs rely on scoring flurries, and those sometimes don't arrive right away.



Mar 6, 2018

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State​



CFP semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App

How they got here​

Georgia: The defending national champions went 13-0, winning only one game by single digits (26-22 at Missouri on Oct. 1) and beating six SP+ top-25 teams by an average score of 39-13. The Dawgs battled injuries and attention span issues, but when they had to look good, they looked perfect.

Ohio State: Despite battling injuries throughout the depth chart, the Buckeyes went 11-1 with the No. 2-scoring offense and a defense that, until late November, was dramatically improved from 2021. They were 11-0 against non-CFP teams and slipped up only to Michigan.

SP+ rankings​

Georgia: First overall, 16th offense, second defense, fifth special teams

Ohio State: Third overall, fourth offense, 15th defense, seventh special teams

Key injuries and absences​

Georgia: Out -- LB Nolan Smith (pectoral), LB C.J. Washington (neck), S Dan Jackson (foot); probable -- WR Ladd McConkey (knee), WR AD Mitchell (ankle), RT Warren McClendon (knee), RG Tate Ratledge (shoulder), LB Marvin Jones Jr. (ankle)

Ohio State: Out -- RB TreVeyon Henderson (foot), WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (hamstring); questionable -- RG Matthew Jones (foot)

Smith-Njigba, Henderson and Georgia linebacker-in-a-tackle's-body Jalen Carter were three of the sport's biggest stars heading into the season, but all three were slowed by injury for most of 2022, and we were deprived of some dominant moments. At least we get a full-strength Carter for this one.

Active statistical standouts​


QB Stetson Bennett: 3,425 passing yards, 68% completion rate, 8.3 yards per dropback, 20 touchdowns, 6 interceptions; 184 non-sack rushing yards (3.9 per carry); 86.2 Total QBR (sixth)

RBs Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton: 1,390 combined rushing yards (5.3 per carry), 17 touchdowns; 529 receiving yards (11.0 per catch), mostly from McIntosh

TE Brock Bowers: 726 receiving yards (14.0 per catch, 9.7 per target), 69% catch rate (85% on catchable targets)

WR Ladd McConkey: 675 receiving yards (13.2 per catch, 9.4 per target), 71% catch rate (85% on catchable targets)

DT Jalen Carter: 3 sacks (20 pressures) and 9 run stuffs in only 300 snaps

LB Smael Mondon: 13 pressures, 10 run stuffs, 1 interception

P Brett Thorson: 41.0 net average, 52% of punts inside the 20


QB C.J. Stroud: 3,340 passing yards, 66% completion rate, 8.9 yards per dropback, 37 touchdowns, 6 interceptions; 74 non-sack rushing yards (2.1 per carry); 87.7 Total QBR (third)

WRs Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka: 2,196 receiving yards (15.9 per catch, 10.7 per target), 67% catch rate (85% on catchable targets)

RB Miyan Williams: 817 rushing yards (6.5 per carry), 13 touchdowns, 2.4 yards per carry before contact and 4.1 after; 27 receiving yards (5.4 per catch)

LB Tommy Eichenberg: 2.5 sacks (8 pressures), 21 run stuffs, 5 passes defensed

DE J.T. Tuimoloau: 3.5 sacks (25 pressures), 9 run stuffs, 4 passes defensed

S Ronnie Hickman: 4 run stuffs, 1 interception, 37% completion rate allowed, 3.3 raw QBR allowed

K Noah Ruggles: 9-for-10 on FGs under 40 yards, 6-for-7 over 40 yards

The ultimate second chance​

As late as Oct. 22, after a demonstrative 54-10 win over Iowa, a solid case could have been made that Ohio State was the best team in the country. Ryan Day's Buckeyes were 7-0, their remodeled defense was allowing less than 15 points per game, and after a bumpy start, the Buckeyes were producing ridiculous offensive numbers. They had faced two top-20 defenses, per SP+, and scored a combined 106 points on them.

Returns, however, diminished from there.

On defense, corner Denzel Burke missed time with a shoulder injury, and a number of stars -- linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, safety Lathan Ransom and others -- dealt with nagging issues. Only five players ended up topping 500 snaps in 12 games.

Combined with new coordinator Jim Knowles' innate aggression, fissures began to form. Over their last five games, the Buckeyes defense underachieved SP+ projections by an average of 10 points per game. And in the last two weeks against Maryland and Michigan, everything fell apart.

Ohio State defense, first 10 games: 15.6 points per game, 5.2 yards per play

Last two: 37.5 points per game, 7.3 yards per play

When a Knowles defense malfunctions, it usually takes the form of "opponent makes big play after big play as you wonder if there are any safeties on the field." Maryland enjoyed seven gains of 25-plus yards, and Michigan scored on gains of 45, 69, 75, 75 and 85 yards. Meanwhile, after scoring four times on its first six drives against the Wolverines, Ohio State managed just one field goal over the final 33 minutes. Day got a bit too conservative, quarterback C.J. Stroud threw two late picks ... everything that could fall apart, did.

Now comes the ultimate double-edged sword: another chance. Stroud and the Buckeyes could win a national title and erase all accumulating negativity, or they could get stomped by Georgia, plunging one of the nation's most elite programs into a full-on existential crisis.

Georgia is about a touchdown favorite, and if you watched the Ohio State-Michigan game you know why. But Ohio State is one of the only programs that can match Kirby Smart's Dawgs from a raw talent standpoint: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ohio State has 66 former blue-chippers on its roster (only Alabama has more), and Georgia's has 64. Here are four reasons Ohio State could indeed capitalize on this second chance.

The defense is healthier than it has been all year. While offensive stars Smith-Njigba and Henderson are out, defenders Eichenberg, Ransom, Burke and tackle Michael Hall Jr. have had a few weeks to rest and recover. This unit might not be 100 percent, but it's closer than it was against Maryland and Michigan, and only one team had topped 21 points on the Buckeyes before those last two games.

Georgia isn't great at the deep shots. Michigan had Ohio State's defense on a string in Columbus. When the Buckeyes loaded the box, McCarthy burned them deep, and when they backed off to avoid getting burned, Michigan ground out a 15-play, eight-minute touchdown drive. Forced to take risks late, they got torched by two long Edwards runs. Not great.

That wasn't an accurate impression of the Ohio State defense for the season, however. The Buckeyes finished eighth in rushing success rate allowed, and they not only allowed just 5.6 yards per dropback for the season (27th), they allowed 5.5 while lining up seven or more defenders in the box. They dared opponents to torch them, but no one did until the end of the year.

There's no guarantee that Georgia will replicate Michigan's success. The Dawgs have thrown only 12% of their passes 20-plus yards downfield (94th in the FBS) and have completed only 36% of those passes (68th). In their only close call of the season, they struggled against a particularly aggressive Missouri secondary. Bennett attempted a season-high 13 passes against either Man-0 or Man-1 coverage -- man coverage with either zero or one deep safety -- against the Tigers and went just 4-for-12 for 64 yards and a sack. If you can't beat Ohio State deep, you probably can't beat Ohio State.

Marvin Harrison Jr.'s contested catches. Sometimes when an elite receiver plays in a huge game, he disappears because he's getting covered more closely than he has been all year and his quarterback stops looking his way. Stroud, however, throws to Harrison despite coverage. Among power conference receivers, Harrison ranks third with 21 contested catches for 342 yards and first with seven touchdowns.

One assumes Harrison and Georgia star cornerback Kelee Ringo will go one-on-one many times, and Stroud will not hesitate to throw 50-50 balls that way. Combine that with Emeka Egbuka's abilities in the slot, and the Ohio State passing game will test Georgia's defense in a way the Dawgs haven't been tested all year. Granted, they might pass the test. This is Georgia, after all.

Perfect red zone offense. Despite constant injuries, Ohio State still finished seventh in rushing success rate. Miyan Williams excels at yards after contact, and the receiving corps is physical as well. Harrison, Egbuka and tight end Cade Stover have caught 23 red zone passes for 15 touchdowns, and Ohio State ranks fifth in both red zone touchdown rate (76%) and goal-to-go touchdown rate (93%).

As one would expect, Georgia's defense is elite in the red zone (first in red zone touchdown rate) just as it is in every other aspect -- the Dawgs lost nearly half their starting lineup to the first round of the NFL draft and didn't really regress at all -- but once again, this is the toughest test the Dawgs have faced.

Fear the manball spread​

Yes, some matchups can be spun as semi-favorable for Ohio State. The Buckeyes defense is built to avoid numbers disadvantages against the run and wants to force the opposing quarterback to either scramble downfield and take hits (which Stetson Bennett doesn't really want to do) or take deep shots (which Bennett doesn't always do well).

The Buckeyes still have to solve the "big guys in space" puzzle, however.

As recently as a year and a half ago, we were insisting that Georgia needed to look a lot more like its rivals. Alabama and Florida had fielded devastating offenses in 2020 -- they were first and fourth in offensive SP+, respectively, and the Tide had averaged 48.5 points per game -- thanks to the combination of all-world talent and a general sense of modernity: spacing, RPOs, motion, etc.

Bennett, famously a former walk-on, had landed the starting job in 2020 after Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman opted out and USC transfer J.T. Daniels was slow to recover from a 2019 knee injury. When Georgia's defense proved incapable of slowing down either Bama or Florida, Bennett started attempting plays that were out of his realm. He went a combined 23-for-56 with four interceptions against the two teams, and Georgia got blown out by a combined 33 points.

Smart that season had hired Todd Monken, an intriguing playcaller with both professional (four years as NFL offensive coordinator) and spread influences (two years as Oklahoma State's OC). It was difficult to see any initial positive changes. The Dawgs weren't incorporating many of these modern touches, and when they did, it tended to go poorly. If they couldn't bowl teams over with manball, Plan B wasn't very good. Smart had built a recruiting machine, but he had still not done enough tactically to catch his former mentor, Nick Saban, and Alabama.

That changed, of course, in 2021. With Daniels hurt again, Bennett mostly got out of the way of an incredible defense -- he threw more than 30 passes just once all season (and in Georgia's only loss, no less) -- but made big plays against both Michigan (early) and Alabama (late) to lead the Dawgs to the national title. And in 2022, we're finally getting a sustained look at what a Monken attack might look like when it has its intended quarterback for the entire season.

It's both unique and scary.

Georgia indeed spreads the field horizontally now. The Dawgs throw 32% of their passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, 16th in the FBS. But they aren't stretching teams with wideouts. In fact, they have deployed four receivers on 0% of their snaps this season. Instead, they have fielded at least two tight ends 64% of the time, fifth-most in the FBS. They force opponents at all times to account for tight ends Brock Bowers (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and Darnell Washington (6-7, 265). They give Bennett loads of quick and easy passes to wide-open targets, and they either force teams to tackle big dudes in space or they get these big guys blocking for normal-size guys such as Ladd McConkey or Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.

It is, in effect, a manball spread.

Georgia ranks third in the FBS with 31% of its passes targeting wide-open pass catchers, and those could be wideouts (McConkey has caught 23 of 24 such balls), tight ends (Bowers and Washington: 27-for-30) or running backs (Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards: 28-for-29).

These passes are thrown an average of just 1.3 yards downfield, and Bennett has averaged 11.7 yards per completion on them. All the "modernity" talk above was basically code for "scheming ways to get the ball into blue-chippers' hands in space," and one could make the case that Georgia now does that better than any offense in college football. It is ruthlessly efficient, and it has made the Georgia run game more efficient as well.

The Dawgs rank third nationally in success rate. McIntosh, Edwards, Kendall Milton and Branson Robinson combine to average more than 30 carries per game; they are almost never knocked off schedule, and when they are Bennett catches them back up to the chains, often with quick and easy reads. We'll see if or how that might change if McConkey's late-season knee issues either render him ineffective or take him out of the game -- he's the only Georgia wideout with more than 303 receiving yards, and without built-in big plays any change to this efficiency machine could be a costly one. The Dawgs have had a month to prepare for that possibility, however, and they could have AD Mitchell healthy for the first time since Week 1; he caught a 40-yard go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of last year's national title game, and he might be their best deep threat.

Obviously, Georgia and Michigan have plenty of similarities in the manball and burliness realms, but Georgia has turned itself into something different and unique this season. It will be elite versus elite when Ohio State has the ball -- how Georgia attempts to pressure Stroud and who wins the Harrison-Ringo battles will both be fascinating -- but unless Ohio State proves it can outmaneuver the manball spread, it's possible nothing else matters.


Caesars Sportsbook: Georgia 34.3, Ohio State 27.8 (UGA -6.5, over/under: 62)
SP+: Georgia 28.9, Ohio State 23.6

As with Michigan-TCU, it's not hard to see the favorite rolling here -- horizontal passing aside, Georgia has basically been a better Michigan for much of the season, and Mitchell's return could help with the deep passing required to pluck the Buckeyes apart.

Favorites of 6.5 points win only 66% of the time, however, and both SP+ (UGA 62%) and FPI (58%) project an even lower win probability than that for the Dawgs. If a rested Ohio State returns to its midseason form, this could be an absolute dogfight. But it's up to Ohio State to turn its second chance into a blessing instead of a curse.



Dec 11, 2021
Game time for those financially involved or just purely fans. Good luck 👍

I didn’t bet this game but my lean was laying the points with Michigan. i’m secretly rooting against that narrative now lol.
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