No. 2 Michigan meets No. 3 Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 31.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. The game will be televised on ESPN. It’s another classic Big Ten vs. SEC matchup, even if this is the first time the schools have played since 1965.
Michigan (12-1) is making its first CFP appearances under coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011 and won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2004. Heisman Trophy finalist Aidan Hutchinson leads a defense that allows just 16.1 points per game, and Cade McNamara and Hassan Haskins lead a run-heavy offense.
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Georgia (12-1) plays with the same old-school formula. The Bulldogs are making their second CFP appearance under Kirby Smart. Georgia lost 41-24 in the SEC championship game to Alabama, but the Bulldogs still allowed just 9.5 points per game. Defensive tackle Jordan Davis, linebacker Nakobe Dean and safety Lewis Cine were all SN first-team All Americans. Quarterback Stetson Bennett will start and perhaps JT Daniels could see time off the bench.
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The winner earns a trip to the CFP championship game on Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. With that in mind, here is what you should know about betting on the CFP semifinal matchup between the Wolverines and Bulldogs:
Michigan vs. Georgia betting odds
- Spread: Georgia -8.5
- Over/under: 44.5
- Moneyline: Georgia -340, Michigan +260
Three trends to know
— The Bulldogs were just 7-5 ATS as a favorite this year, and they lost S/U in the only matchup as a single-digit favorite.
— Michigan is 3-11 S/U as an underdog under Harbaugh, but they are 6-8 ATS in those games. The Wolverines also were 5-1 ATS in games with single-digit lines this season.
— Georgia is 12-6 ATS and 11-7 S/U in neutral-site games under Smart. Michigan is 3-4 S/U and 3-4 ATS in neutral-site games under Harbaugh.
Three things to watch
— Can Michigan get a push up front? The Wolverines ranked 10th in the FBS with a power-running game that averaged 223.8 yards per game. Hassan Haskins led the way with 1,288 yards and 20 TDs, and Blake Corum added 939 yards and 11 TDs. Georgia allowed just 81.7 rushing yards per game behind Davis and a strong front seven. Alabama and Georgia were the only two teams that averaged 4.0 yards per carry against the Bulldogs. Michigan must average more than that to have a chance.
— Georgia’s pass protection. The Bulldogs allowed just 11 sacks all season as a part of a high-percentage attack led by Stetson Bennett. Georgia averaged 194.9 passing yards per game and 5.3 yards per attempt, and it will not abandon the run with Zamir White (726 yards, 10 TDs) and James Cook (629 yards, 7 TDs). Michigan must contain the ground game, and Hutchinson (14 sacks) and David Ojabo (11 sacks) have to get home in pressure situations.
— QBs splitting snaps. Bennett is Georgia’s starter, but will JT Daniels work into the mix as a changeup? Smart would not divulge how much Daniels has worked with the first team in practice. Cade McNamara has been an efficient playmaker for Michigan, but freshman J.J. McCarthy brings a different skill-set to the field. The Wolverines will use McCarthy in certain packages. McCarthy has thrown at least one pass in 10 games this season. In the end, Bennett and McNamara, who have similar passing stats this season, will be in control in crunch time unless something drastic happens.
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Stat that matters
Georgia averages 22.7 first downs per game; slightly ahead of Michigan at 22.4. Both teams have a methodical offensive attack that relies on ball control. On defense, the Bulldogs allowed 14.4 first downs per game. The Wolverines allowed 16.7 in the same category. Tennessee, Florida and Alabama were the only teams that had at least 20 first downs on the Bulldogs. Michigan allowed 20 or more first downs five times. This is a category the Wolverines need to win.
Michigan vs. Georgia prediction
SEC-Big Ten bowl matchups carry extra heat, and this one should be fun. The Bulldogs are 9-2 in bowl games against Big Ten schools, but they have split their last four games. The Wolverines are 8-8 in bowl games against SEC schools, and Harbaugh is 1-3 with three straight losses. Georgia will jump ahead early, and it will take Michigan time to adjust to the Bulldogs’ front seven. Bennett will find tight end Brock Bowers for a pair of TDs. McNamara will bounce back from a rough first half to lead a rally in the second half, but the Bulldogs stay ahead throughout and set up a rematch with Alabama.
Final score: Georgia 29, Michigan 21