Keys for Georgia to Cover vs. Michigan in College Football Playoff Semifinals

Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis.
Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis. / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 2 seeded Georgia Bulldogs head to the Orange Bowl with their eyes on a National Championship.

After losing the SEC Championship, Georgia was knocked from the ranks of the unbeatens but still bolster the strongest defense in the country and a devastating rushing attack.

Kirby Smart's team will face the Michigan Wolverines as 7.5-point favorites at WynnBET Sportsbook with a total of 45.5.

Can the Bulldogs erase the lackluster performance in the SEC Championship game and stymie the surging Wolverines, who come into the CFP as the hottest team in the country after wins over Ohio State and Iowa?

Here are some keys to the game to ensure that Georgia cashes on New Year's Eve.

Get Reed's Keys For Every Team in the College Football Playoff:

Quarterback Questions

It's been a winding road for Georgia quarterbacks this season. After starting J.T. Daniels in Week 1 after he finished last season on a high note, an injury paved the way for backup Stetson Bennett to regain the job after he started games last season as well.

Daniels remained the backup even after returning from injury as the Georgia defense flexed its collective muscles on the SEC, allowing an average of less than 10 points on the season.

However, the SEC Championship exposed Bennett's lack of explosiveness in the passing game with a negative game script. While Bennett completed 64% of his passes with an average depth of target of over 10 yards, the Alabama defense foiled him with a stout pass rush. It was the toughest defense he had faced to date, and he looked overwhelmed.

Bennett threw two interceptions and was sacked three times in the 41-24 loss.

Michigan figures to pose a similar threat with Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo on each side of the defensive line, one that ranks third in pass success rate.

Daniels is set to be available after testing positive for COVID-19 recently and is the more dynamic passing threat. Will Smart make a change a la Nick Saban in the National Championship in 2018?

I believe that the game script will dictate that. If the Bulldogs are able to play the game on their terms, a low scoring and calculated affair, Bennett can do enough to guide them to a win. With that being said, it's concerning thought to have for a 7.5-point favorite that their starting quarterback has rarely been challenged this season, and failed when he was.

Shut Down the Michigan Rushing Attack

Michigan is an efficient offense, 25th in the country, but it stems from the run game, which is the foundation of this incredible Georgia defense.

It will be strength on strength when the Michigan offense (16th in rush success rate) goes up against the Georgia defense (5th in defensive rush success rate). We have seen the Wolverines struggle with run stopping defenses like Wisconsin in the past -- limited below three yards per carry -- and Georgia is as good as they come with nose tackle Jordan Davis clogging up the middle.

Davis, the 6'7" 390-pound defensive tackle, is a load to handle and will surely limit the Michigan running backs up the middle, which can put the offense into passing situations. The Wolverines are reliant on the run, rushing on more than 60% of their plays, so they are looking to stay on schedule and pass underneath. If Davis and the defensive line can hold the Michigan RB's down, it will put a ton of pressure on Cade McNamara to make plays down field, something he's not privy to.

While Michigan is sound on offense, the Wolverines are far from explosive, outside the top 50 in both explosive rush and pass rates.

Establish the Run

As I alluded to above, Bennett hasn't been asked to do so much because of their insane talent at running back. James Cook, Zamir White and others average more than five yards per carry and are top 30 in explosive run rate.

The offensive line is impressive ranking top 20 in offensive line yards as well. Over the course of the season we have seen Georgia win time and time again on the ground. The Bulldogs don't run as much as Michigan, but do hand the ball off on nearly 58% of plays.

The game script for Georgia features a defensive minded affair with the offensive line tiring out the likes of Hutchinson and co. on the opposite side, opening up holes for the likes of Cook and White to pound away on the Wolverines.

The Bulldogs want to win ugly, and nobody does it better than them.