Georgia will get another shot at Alabama.
The No. 3 Bulldogs are headed to the College Football Playoff title game for the first time since the 2017 season after trouncing No. 2 Michigan on Friday night in the Orange Bowl.
Georgia marched down the field and scored on its opening drive and never looked back en route to a resounding 34-11 victory. In the end, the Bulldogs wracked up 518 yards of offense, limited Michigan to only 88 rushing yards and forced three turnovers.
It was a dominant all-around effort. Here are the five plays that propelled Georgia to the brink of its first national title since 1980.
Stetson Bennett, Brock Bowers set the tone
Stetson Bennett came out firing. The much-maligned former walk-on struggled in the SEC title game loss to Alabama a few weeks ago, but he was locked in on Friday night.
On just his second passing attempt of the game, Bennett hit star tight end Brock Bowers down the left sideline for a 35-yard gain. It was an excellent play from Bowers, who is just a freshman, and it set the tone for the Georgia offense and gave Bennett plenty of confidence in the early going.
Four plays later. Bennett and Bowers hooked up again, connecting on a nine-yard touchdown to give Georgia a 7-0 lead. It was a lead the Bulldogs would never relinquish.
Michigan stopped on 4th down
On the ensuing drive, it looked like Michigan was ready to match Georgia’s hot start. It took just three plays for the Wolverines to advance into Bulldogs territory.
Soon after, though, Michigan would face a fourth-and-four from the UGA 41. Instead of punting or trying a long field goal, Jim Harbaugh kept his offense on the field. Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara looked toward Erick All on the sideline but delivered it a stride too late.
McNamara’s throw was a bit wide of All, who was unable to bring it in.
That resulted in a turnover on downs and put it back in the hands of Georgia’s offense. Soon after, the flood gates would open.
Georgia trick play makes it 14-0
On the ensuing drive, Georgia’s offense continued to thrive. A 21-yard run from James Cook got the Bulldogs back into Michigan territory and set up Georgia’s second touchdown of the day.
This one involved some creativity. Bennett handed the ball off to Kenny McIntosh. McIntosh looked like he would try to proceed around the right edge. Instead, he looked to pass and found Adonai Mitchell in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.
It was a perfect throw that hit Mitchell in stride and gave Georgia a 14-0 lead.
Bennett to Burton
As the first half progressed, the teams traded three consecutive field goal drives. Georgia was adding to its lead and Michigan avoiding a shutout felt like a triumphant moment.
With the score 20-3 in the final 3:30 of the half, Michigan had a chance to cut into the Georgia lead before halftime. Instead, the Georgia defense forced a quick three-and-out and put the ball back in Bennett’s hands.
He made the Wolverines pay and Georgia instead added to its commanding lead. Bennett looked deep and found Jermaine Burton behind the defense for a 57-yard touchdown to make the score 27-3 going into halftime.
Derion Kendrick seals the deal
Derion Kendrick, a Clemson transfer, has experience playing in big games. It showed on Friday night.
Kendrick picked off McNamara twice in Georgia’s win. The first came right before halftime. The second came on the opening drive of the second half.
Michigan managed to move the ball into the red zone but were unable to come away with points thanks to Kendrick. McNamara, on a second-and-11 play from the UGA 19, lofted one into the end zone toward Daylen Baldwin.
Kendrick seemed like he ran the route better than Baldwin and intercepted the pass with ease.
Even though it was so early in the third quarter, that turnover pretty much spelled the end to the potential for a Michigan comeback.