Michigan Wolverines football team headed to Orange Bowl to play Georgia in College Football Playoff semifinal

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett runs the ball out of the pocket against Alabama during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship game on Saturday in Atlanta. (AP photo)

The College Football Playoff semifinal in the Orange Bowl will match surging Michigan against a Georgia team that went unbeaten through the regular season before a humbling loss to the defending national champion.

Defense has been the calling card for both.

The Dec. 31 matchup at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, was set up when the Wolverines were slotted No. 2 and the Bulldogs No. 3 in the final CFP rankings released Sunday.

Michigan (12-1) and Georgia (12-1) are two of the more storied programs in college football, but they have faced each other only twice before. They split the two meetings, one in 1957 and the other in 1965.

The Wolverines got on a roll after their only loss, 37-33 at Michigan State on Oct. 30. They closed with a 42-27 win over then-No. 2 Ohio State and put a 42-3 beatdown on Iowa in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday night.

“Just a bunch of guys that wanted to give it their very best and then feel good about what they accomplished,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told ESPN. “They accomplished a lot through a lot of work. Guys just working and not worrying.”

Georgia, with the most dominant defense in the country through its first 12 games, came into the season with high expectations. The Bulldogs were No. 5 in the preseason and No. 2 to Alabama in the first five polls of the regular season. They took over the top spot after Alabama lost at Texas A&M on Oct. 9 and were there until they fell to No. 3 in the AP poll Sunday.

The Bulldogs went into Southeastern Conference championship game as a touchdown favorite against Alabama. But their offense went flat and committed two turnovers, one an interception returned for a touchdown, and they converted only 3 of 12 third downs. Alabama’s Bryce Young threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns and the Bulldogs lost 41-24.

Both teams feature defense. The Wolverines have two of the best defensive ends in the country in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who have combined for 25 sacks, and Georgia has the premier defensive tackle in Outland Trophy finalist Jordan Davis.


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