Morning Sun

Surprising Michigan takes run at Georgia’s defense in CFP

- By Ralph D. Russo

Just about everything about this season has been a joyride for No. 2 Michigan, the first team to start unranked in the AP Top 25 and reach the College Football Playoff.

“We’re happy to be here, but not just happy to be here,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Reaching the playoff in 2021 was always the expectatio­n for No. 3 Georgia, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion by November as the Bulldogs rampaged through their schedule.

Not even a resounding loss to Alabama in the Southeaste­rn Conference title game could keep Georgia out. But instead of bounding into the Orange Bowl semifinal off huge victories like Michigan, the Bulldogs enter trying to re-establish the air of invincibil­ity they carried much of the season.

“You lose some, and you just go on getting better,” Georgia Allamerica defensive tackle Jordan Davis said. “Obviously we’re not going to be the same team from

last game to this game with Michigan, but we just have to keep moving forward and worry about ourselves and just get ready for the game.”

The Wolverines (12-1) and Bulldogs (12-1), two storied programs that haven’t played in more than half a century, took very different paths to their meeting Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

The winningest program in college football history, Michigan doesn’t fit the profile of an upstart, but few could have seen this breakthrou­gh coming in year seven under Harbaugh.

“I feel like the buzz -- created some new buzz with this 2021 team,” Harbaugh said. “Yeah, let’s face it, it had died down a little bit, and I do feel like our guys have created some new buzz, and it’s been a good thing.”

Coming off a 2-4 record in 2020, the Wolverines used the doubters and critics of their coach as fuel. Center Andrew Vastardis wore a Michigan vs. Everybody T-shirt to his Zoom session with reporters earlier this week.

“I’d say that shirt really begins from fall camp and spring ball when we knew that a lot of people would be counting us out,” offensive tackle Andrew Stueber said. “I saw somewhere there was a .05% chance of making it to the College Football Playoff. A lot of people didn’t believe in us, and it kind of drove us this whole season.”

“Why not us?” has been another Michigan rallying cry.

After blowing a 16-point lead in the second half to Michigan State in their only loss on Halloween weekend, the Wolverines rallied late to win at Penn State, snapped an eightgame losing streak to Ohio State and beat Iowa to win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004.

“Definitely riding that into this game, and just ready to go out there and take advantage of every opportunit­y we get,” Vastardis said.

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