Georgia barely broke a sweat and bulldozed Michigan 34-11 in the national semifinals at the Orange Bowl, sending the Bulldogs into an SEC-only championship game against Alabama for the second time in the history of College Football Playoff format.
Coming only weeks after losing 41-24 to the Crimson Tide in the conference championship game, denting the Bulldogs’ aura of invincibility, the victory against Michigan is a reminder of how Georgia spent nearly the entire regular season compared to some of the best teams in recent history.
And after the conference suffered a run of losses against Power Five and Group of Five competition to open the postseason, the SEC-on-SEC championship game strongly supports the league’s status as the unquestioned leader of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
As the Crimson Tide showed in early December, beating the Bulldogs takes elite quarterback play, offensive balance, impenetrable pass protection and opportunistic play in the defensive backfield. In almost every area, the Wolverines came up short.
Michigan hadn’t trailed by more than seven points at any point this season in capturing the program’s first win against Ohio State since 2011 and the first Big Ten championship under coach Jim Harbaugh.
Paced by quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, who completed 21 of 30 throws for 307 yards and three scores, and a defense loaded with NFL talent, Georgia pulled out to a 14-0 lead with just under five minutes left in the first quarter and led 17-0 after adding a field goal three minutes into the second.
Georgia would add another field goal and a touchdown before halftime to take an insurmountable 27-3 lead.
Bennett completed his first nine attempts and had 234 yards at halftime, delivering a series of highlight-reel throws down the sideline and answering any questions about his ability to lead the Bulldogs to the championship game.
On defense, Georgia focused on shutting down the Wolverines’ running game and putting pressure on quarterback Cade McNamara, who threw for only 106 yards and had two interceptions.
This sort of offense-defense balance was a familiar sight during a borderline historic regular season, which saw Georgia allow under a touchdown per game before being blown out by Alabama to lose the conference championship.
The rematch with the Tide stirs memories of multiple high-profile meetings between the SEC powers in the past decade — all won by Alabama, the last roadblock between the Bulldogs and the program’s first national championship since 1980.
The Tide won the 2017 championship after topping Georgia in overtime. The following year, Alabama turned to then-backup quarterback Jalen Hurts to spark a 35-28 win and take home the SEC.
Overall, the Tide will take a seven-game winning streak in the rivalry into the championship game, set for Indianapolis on Jan. 10.