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2021 CFB Playoff Semi-Final: Michigan vs Georgia Situational Scouting and Matchup Analysis

The Matchup: Michigan Offense vs. Georgia Defense

Michigan Offense


In 2021, the Michigan offense relied heavily on its ability to run the football. Defenses have tried stacking the box, and Michigan Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis ran the football anyway. They were determined all year to have an established identity as a team that wants to wear a defense down in multiple ways via the run game. Josh Gattis admitted that in 2020 he gave up on the run too often and that in 2021, he committed to relying on the run game more.

Michigan Run Game Uses a Dynamic Body Blow Style

The core of the 2021 Michigan offense is their use of gap scheme style runs to get a pulling lineman out in front of one of their three talented RB's the most notable being Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, with a sprinkle of star true freshman RB Donovan Edwards. The Michigan offense averages 223 yards rushing per game, ranking 10th nationally while running behind their Joe Moore award-winning offensive line. Their coach (Sherrone Moore) has never coached an OL before, yet his unit is one of the top units in college football. The Michigan offense averages 5.3 yards per rush attempt in 2021.

Hassan Haskins and the Michigan run game will wear on you fast

The QB Situation At Michigan Provides a One-Two Punch And a Steady Hand As It's Starter

At the QB position, Michigan has a steady, efficient player in Cade McNamara. McNamara has had the luxury of being the starter ahead of a true freshman (J.J. McCarthy), that possesses many high-level attributes that Cade does not possess. In short, Cade is the leader and efficient player who does not take a risk or put the ball in harm's way.

Cade McNamara does not "wow" as a runner like McCarthy, and that's why J.J. enters the game on occasion. McCarthy adds the threat of run from the QB position in the drop-back passing game and the zone-read game. McNamara has made some critical plays in critical moments but ultimately is not expected to go out and win a game down multiple possessions.

Michigan has brilliantly sprinkled in J.J. McCarthy All Season

Georgia Defense


Where should I begin? The Georgia defense gives up 9.5 ppg (1st) and 253 total yards per game, 2nd nationally to Wisconsin, a team Michigan-dominated in Madison back in October. Georgia is also 3rd nationally behind Wisconsin and Alabama in rush yards per attempt, allowing 2.61 yards per attempt.

The Georgia Defense Can Get You Behind Schedule With TFL's

Furthermore, the Georgia defense ranks 37th nationally in TFL's on the season, which I was confident Georgia would be more dominant before my research in this category. I then analyzed the number of plays run against the Georgia defense vs. the total TFL's might be a better way to interpret this stat, and they are 6th nationally in TFL rate (11%).

Jordan Davis Is a massive problem on the interior

Georgia's Elite Defensive Line Led By Jordan Davis

The Georgia defensive line is led by a behemoth of a human (Jordan Davis) who is 6-6, 340lbs. Davis is a true space-eater in the middle of the Georgia defense who often requires a double team. If you choose to single block Davis, he will wreak havoc in the middle of your offensive line, and that's the dilemma teams face every week against a Georgia defense loaded with blue-chip talent.

Double Team Jordan Davis All You Want, The Bulldogs Defensive Front Thrives From The Consistent Jordan Davis Double Teams

Once you get past Jordan Davis, the Bulldogs have another stout IDL that deserves a double team (Devonte Wyatt). Devonte Wyatt is a 6-3, 315lb anchor who is hard to move in the run game. Doubling Wyatt is a rob Peter to pay Paul scenario because they also have a 6-5, 290lb edge in Travon Walker. Walker is an edge setter who is often lined up to the wide side of the field and counted on heavily as an edge-setting run defender.

Georgia Is Athletic and Deep At Linebacker

Once you get past the DL, the Georgia defense has a bevy of high-caliber talent at the LB position led by ILB and top 20 NFL Draft prospect Nakobe Dean. Dean is a player who bats clean up in the run game. He is often playing clean at the 2nd level, and once teams find their way to the edge of the Georgia defense, they often find themselves one on one vs. Nakobe Dean.

Nakobe Dean reads and reacts at a high level, displays his lateral quickness

Versatile Safety Lewis Cine leads the Georgia Secondary

At the third level of the Georgia defense, they have a leader in safety, Lewis Cine. Cine is second on the team in tackles and is a good run defender with great instincts.


The Matchup: Michigan Defense vs. Georgia Offense

Georgia Offense


The Georgia offense is similar to the Michigan offense. They want to establish the run and use play-action to catch opposing defenses off guard. They play pretty close to the vest led by a former walkon at QB (Stetson Bennett).

Like Michigan, The Georgia Run Game Uses a Body Blow Approach With A One, Two Punch

At RB they have an excellent combination similar to Michigan with Zamir White and James Cook. White is a between tackles body blows back who possesses NFL traits and size identical to Josh Jacobs. Both of the backs are good receivers; Cook is the better receiver of the two in terms of routes down the field, wheel, angle routes, and isolating LB's in space.

Zamir White displays his jumpcut, contact balance, and power

Georgia Offensive Line, Deep and Talented

The Georgia offensive line is talented from left to right. They are not giants upfront, but they are not undersized. They are an agile group that, similar to Michigan, can effectively mix both zone and gap schemes. They will run a lot of Duo, and when teams shoot gaps, they will throw a counter or a trap at your defense, thwarting your plans.

Georgia Receivers Talented, But No One Stands Out (Well, Maybe)

The Georgia receivers are talented, but they don't have anyone outside of George Pickens that strikes fear. George Pickens is an NFL-caliber X receiver with a big frame. He is a matchup problem outside the numbers, but he has only been available for one game this season after sustaining an ACL injury in the spring. He is also one of the players who reportedly tested positive for Covid inside the ten-day quarantine window.

Georgia's TE's Are Their Best Asset In The Pass Game Led By A True Freshman All-American

The TE position is where Georgia has been solid. They are led by 6-4, 230lb freshman All-American Brock Bowers. His 47 catches and 747 yards with 11 TD's led the Bulldog's offense in 2021.

Brock Bowers looks like the next Travis Kelce

Michigan Defense


The Michigan defense led by All-American and Heisman finalist Aidan Hutchinson had a resurgence under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. Macdonald is a former LB coach at the NFL level under Jim's Brother John for the Baltimore Ravens. Macdonald replaced the departed Don Brown, whose defense imploded in 2020, allowing 35 pts and 429 yards per game.

Aidan Hutchinson & company can wreak havoc in a variety of ways

New Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald Has Revived The Michigan Defense in 2021

In 2021, the Michigan defense is statistically at or near the top in almost every category. The change in the defensive scheme from a man-to-man approach to a more one-high cover three (zone) scheme has paid dividends. Michigan is 11th nationally in total yards allowed per game (311) and 4th in points allowed (16).

The Michigan Defense Thrives Off Of Edge Pressure

The Michigan defensive scheme thrives on getting pressure off the edge. Opposite of Aidan Hutchinson is another talented Edge rusher David Ojabo. Ojabo is a projected top ten pick, in our opinion, and will likely find himself mocked by other draft pundits in the top ten consistently as we move forward into NFL Draft season. Hutchinson and Ojabo combined for 25 total sacks in 2021. Both players are critical run stoppers on the edges of the Michigan defense.

Michigan Interior Defensive Line is Average With Solid Rotation

The rest of the Michigan defensive line is average to good (not Georgia level). Led by Mazi Smith, they use a rotation of different players up front, but the drop-off among depth players is significant and something I expect Georgia will try to exploit.

The Michigan Linebackers Are Talented, Led By High IQ Linebacker Josh Ross

At the second level of the Michigan defense, they are led by a senior LB who has a lot of experience (Josh Ross). He is in the midst of his best season at the position. He is not a burner, and he is a player who can be a liability in pass coverage, but his leadership and football IQ has been a key component to Michigans success. Outside of Ross, Michigan rotates several talented players at LB. Junior Colson is a notable player, and Michael Barrett is a guy who can come in and help with pass coverage at the LB position.

Michigan Secondary No Longer The Liability

The Michigan secondary has long separated itself from the liability it became in 2020, where Michigan as a team ranked 90th, allowing 250 yards per game.

Dax Hill is a versatile playmaking nickel/Safety, look at the ground he covers

In 2021, the Michigan secondary is one of the better groups in the Big Ten. Michigan as a team ranks 29th nationally, allowing 195 yards passing per game. They are led by safety/nickel Dax Hill who has instant impact potential at the NFL level; he is primarily their nickel corner and a player who can line up outside if asked.

Dax Hill's versatility is key against Georgia. Hill possesses 4.3 forty speed and will match up against Georgia's talented freshman TE, Brock Bowers.

I repeat, Dax Hill is a versatile, playmaking nickel/safety, he intercepts this


If Michigan Wins:

It will be because.... They Don't Give Up On The Run

On Friday night, the Michigan run game will face a stiff test against a deep and athletic Georgia defensive front. Michigan has already faced two of the top run defenses in college football in 2021, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Michigan Has Faced Two Of The Top Run Defenses In CFB Already With Mixed Results

On the road in October vs. Wisconsin, the Michigan run game rushed the football 44 times for 112 yards (2.55 Yds Per Att.) and a single TD. The Badgers successfully stopped the run, but Michigan never gave up on running the football. The Wolverines would throw for 250 yards and three scores.

Michigan Dominates Iowa On the Ground In Big Ten Championship

Against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten title game, the Wolverines rushed the football 34 times, amassing 211 yards, 6.21 yards per attempt, and 4 TD's. Michigan was able to find success on the edge of the Iowa defense in this game, popping some big runs, including a 67 yarder by Blake Corum that opened up the eventual onslaught of scoring by the Michigan offense.

Blake Corum has been the lightning to Haskins thunder

J.J. McCarthy Will Have a Role

Michigan cannot give up on the run and expect to beat Georgia on the shoulders of Cade Mcnamara. One of the other ways Michigan can add pressure to the Georgia defense is with J.J. McCarthy's athleticism. McCarthy has been brought into games throughout the season to add a run dimension from the QB position.

McCarthy is Not Just A Run Threat, He Displays Elite Level QB Traits as A Passer

McCarthy has a live and accurate arm, he throws with a lot of zip, and he is the future of the Michigan offense. The Michigan staff has brought him along slowly and allowed him to develop behind McNamara. Throughout the season, McCarthy has come into games and thrown the football more and more. He can be a surprise X-factor in this game.

Not just a runner, McCarthy can sling it with touch and accuracy

Michigan Run Game Is Most Explosive In CFB

One of the key components to Michigan's success in 2021 is that they have an explosive offense. They lead college football in run plays of 50+ yards, with 8 in 2021. If Michigan struggles to run between the tackles, they will try to work the edges of the Georgia defense, and if they can hit a big play or two, it can make all the difference in a game that could be low scoring and that hinges on the outcome of one or two plays.

The Michigan Defense Must Be Stout Against The Run, Forcing Stetson Bennett Into 3rd And Obvious Situations.

The Michigan defense matches up well against the Georgia offense, but the concern will be how well they handle the RB's out of the backfield as receivers and their use of the TE. Georgia likes to keep defenses guessing using a lot of play-action. Georgia will do all they can to get the ball out quick, protecting Stetson Bennett from getting hit, taking a strip-sack, or throwing a pressured pass into harm's way.

Getting Pressure On Stetson Bennett

Bennett is an above-average athlete who can escape pressure and move the sticks with his legs. But he is by far and away less efficient when under pressure completing 50% (adjusted) of his throws and accumulating a 38.4 NFL QB rating (PFF). According to PFF, Bennett completes 79% (adjusted) of his throws when he is kept clean, and his NFL QB Rating is 137.5.

Mixing and Disguising Blitz Looks Pre And Post Snap

Michigan can overload protection or use a delayed blitz to confuse the protection. Mike Macdonald has shown creativity in the past, and it's a staple in the Ravens defense he brought with him to Michigan. When teams work to double Aidan Hutchinson, you can send the extra LB, and don't forget about David Ojabo opposite of Hutchinson.

Creative blitz scheme, Hutchinson draws a double, and no one home to take LB

If Georgia Wins:

It will be because.... Michigan cannot run the football effectively enough to get into manageable passing situations.

I went back and watched Georgia against Florida to see how Florida hung in the game for so long before eventually getting the expected beatdown. Florida had success running the ball early, mixed in a decent amount of inside and outside runs, had success with a moving pocket and easy reads for their QB. Then the turnovers started to happen, and this is Georgia's game.

Georgia will be patient and wait for their opponents to get greedy and make a mistake in a critical moment. If Michigan gets behind the chains, they may try to take a few more risks through the air. That’s where Georgia’s opportunistic defense can make plays.

How the onslaught of turnovers began vs. Florida (strip fumble)

Georgia Will Wait For You To Make Mistakes And Then Capitalize

After a scoreless 1st QTR where Georgia's best drive happened on its opening drive and ended with a FG miss, Georgia wouldn't score until just under 9 mins to go in the 2nd QTR. They would slog along on an 11 play 63-yard drive that would end in a FG to go up 3-0.

A few drives later, Florida would fumble deep in their territory, which led to a Georgia one-play TD drive with 2:16 to go. On Florida's next drive, they would throw a pick two plays in, leading to another short field TD for the Georgia offense. Florida would turn it over one more time with 7 seconds left, and Georgia would score a pick-six taking a 24-0 halftime lead.

How the onslaught ended, a 21 point swing in around 3 mins

You can Exploit Michigan LB's In Pass Coverage One on One

Michigan is talented, but their LB's are susceptible to giving up plays in pass coverage. Georgia should try to exploit this early and often. If Michigan gives them underneath throws, take them. If the flat is open, take it.

Work to force Michigan out of their comfort zone with quick throws and a moving pocket. Get Stetson Bennett out on the edge of the defense and let him make easy throws. Take what is available and don't force anything that is not there.


Michigan Key 2022 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

Michigan has eight players currently ranked on our NFL Draft Big Board. They rank 3rd among all teams with eight players.

Edge Aidan Hutchinson (1st on our board)

Edge David Ojabo (10th on our board)

Safety/Nickel Dax Hill (30th on our board)

Georgia Key 2022 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

Georgia has 11 players on the Football Scout 365 NFL Draft Big Board. They lead all teams represented on our big board.

DT Jordan Davis (17th on our board)

LB Nakobe Dean (20th on our board)

Edge Travon Walker (58th on our board and under review)


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