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A Warning to the Georgia Football Team

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ATHENS — Remember all that talk about how Michigan would crush TCU in the CFP Fiesta Bowl semifinals?

It only made sense when you considered how dominant the Wolverines seemed to be for most of the season and, even more recently, traversing Ohio State in Columbus by a tally of 45-23 and then dominating Purdue 43-22 in the Big Ten. Championship Game. .

This Michigan team, with a more mobile quarterback in JJ McCarthy and the two-time Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, was considered far better than the one Georgia convincingly beat in the Orange Bowl by a count of 34-11 in last season.

RELATED: Kirby Sees “Similarities” Between TCU and Georgia, Acknowledges Defensive Issues

Wolverines players said they wanted another shot at Georgia this year because it’s what fueled their hard work in the offseason and made them realize where the bar was set.

Instead, TCU pulled off a stunning 51-45 upset, and so here we are with the #1 Bulldogs preparing to take on the Horned Frogs at 7:30 pm Monday in the CFP Championship Game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California

Stetson Bennett was once again at his best and worst in the same contest, saying after the game that he played “30 minutes of bad football”.

Bennett’s mistakes potentially cost Georgia as much as 14 points and prompted coach Kirby Smart to publicly lambast his quarterback after the game, much to the surprise of those involved in a gleeful moment on the show:

• an interception at UGA 30 that OSU converted into a TD (7 points)

• an ill-fated fullback in OSU 3 who moved the ball back to the 13 leading to a field goal (3 points) instead of the points awarded by a TD and extra point (4 points),

• catch a sack that moved the ball behind the Ohio State 29 that led to a missed 52-yard (3-point) field goal

And yet, there was Bennett in the fourth quarter, throwing for a CFP record 190 yards on 10-of-12 passes, including the game-winner with 54 seconds left to AD Mitchell.

Smart said grimly after the game that Bennett would have to play inside offense and play better for UGA to win the championship, and yet, the head coach clearly loves the 25-year-old Georgia folk hero as much as anyone.

Bennett vowed on Tuesday to “clean up” what went wrong, and many believe that if he does — and matches his stellar performances against Oregon, Tennessee and LSU, Georgia should cover the 14-point margin the game opened with. .

But first, a retrospective of the TCU-Michigan game with friend DawgNation and MLive Star Reporter Aaron McManncovering the Wolverines for Michigan’s award-winning state media outlet:

1. What was the biggest surprise for you in the TCU-Michigan game?

Aaron: Quite frankly, it was the number of unusual mistakes Michigan made in the first half. They had a double reversal on the fourth and goal on the 2 that TCU was prepared for, fumbled early in the second quarter at the goal line and quarterback JJ McCarthy had a few passes intercepted and came back for a touchdown.

It looked like the Horned Frogs were always in the right place at the right time and knocked Michigan out of their gameplan early on, which resulted in a 21-6 halftime lead.

2. CJ Stroud was an effective shooter against Georgia before Harrison’s injury and showed mobility. How would you compare TCU’s Max Duggan to Stroud?

Aaron: Similar, but Duggan seems to have a little more mobility than Stroud (and a green light to go). He reminds me of Tim Tebow when he was in Florida; that player who is willing to put everything on the line for his team, whether in the air or on the ground.

Duggan didn’t have a particularly strong game playing against UM (he was just 14-29, 225 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), but he made the big play when TCU needed it. He might not beat you very often on the field, but he likes to hit short to mid pitches and let his receivers take it from there.

3. TCU rushed 41 times for 263 yards in a Wolverines self-defense. How were the Horned Frogs so effective and do you think they can do this to Georgia?

Aaron: It is a good question. No one rushed for more than 200 yards at Michigan all season, and I think TCU’s sets of four receivers did just enough to spread out the Wolverines’ defense to make the difference.

The Horned Frogs averaged 6.4 yards per carry, but only broke two runs of 15+ yards (both by backup Emari Demercardo, including a 69-yarder) – getting yards big enough to keep the bats moving at times. Michigan just doesn’t have the depth in the middle to support that kind of balance, and it really showed on Saturday.

4. TCU performs a unique 3-3-5 alignment. What worked for Michigan against this and how can the Horned Frogs cause problems for a UGA defense similar to the Wolverines?

Aaron: TCU really frustrated Michigan with its 3-3-5 alignment, dropping a safety (and in some cases two) to help guard against the run. The Wolverines have had a harder time managing football than we’d expect, which has been their bread and butter all season.

So after first half mistakes, football struggles, and a deep hole, Michigan was forced to pitch more of the ball in the second half. This went straight to what TCU wanted to do, waiving five and six players at times to close zones and prevent the Wolverines from hitting deep balls. They did, sometimes, but it took some tweaking and it really frustrated JJ McCarthy and his group of receivers.

5. What is the big draw for this game and how do you think the Bulldogs’ national championship game against TCU next Monday will go?

Aaron: It is important to point out that this is the first time that TCU performs on a stage of this magnitude. I think many of us on the Michigan beat thought the moment was too big for them, but they showed poise and confidence as a team that belonged.

That’s a credit to coach Sonny Dykes, who rose from Texas high school ranks to the Air Raid system at Texas Tech and his last job at Southern Methodist. He made sure his team played in control and discipline against Michigan, who I think was caught off guard a bit by the Frogs’ performance.

Now, can they do that two weeks in a row? I have my doubts, especially having watched Michigan play Ohio State and TCU, but I urge Georgia fans not to ignore this Horned Frogs team.

They’ll move the ball around and score some points (Quinten Johnston may be the best wide receiver I’ve seen play all season)… it’ll be up to Georgia to limit them inside the red zone and eventually choke them with their size and talent advantage.