Joseph Quirk ’23
Do not be fooled by the outcome of the SEC Conference Championship this past weekend— Georgia is still by far the best team in the country, and it is not even a close race.
The University of Georgia Bulldogs were 12-0 heading into their conference championship, in which they squared off against the perennial powerhouse University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Bama has had a “rough” season, if you could even call it that. The Tide went 11-1 before clinching a spot into the SEC title game. They escaped close losses to the University of Florida, Louisiana State University, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Auburn, all of whom had lackluster seasons this year, leading many to write the Crimson Tide off. On top of that, Bama has had top recruiting classes and the best coach in college football over the last decade. So why say all this? Because up until this weekend, Georgia was seen as the undisputed best team in the country.
The Bulldogs have arguably one of the best defenses in college history with great starters (most of whom will be drafted to the NFL) and have not allowed more than 17 points in a game this season. That was until they played Bama and their Heisman trophy candidate quarterback Bryce Young. The game was a simple slip-up that the nation is making out to be worse than it is.
The facts are that Georgia’s defense is as good as advertised, their offense is certainly nothing to scoff at either, and being undefeated in the toughest division of college football is quite the accomplishment.
Yes, they slipped up and lost a game. But that game was to one of the juggernauts of college football, who consider 11-1 a “subpar” season. Looking at the bracket, Georgia will likely have a chance at redemption if they can make it to the championship.
First, they face the University of Michigan. The Wolverines broke through with Jim Harbaugh at the helm. Michigan finally beat Ohio State, catapulting them into the playoffs with their only loss being a close one to another top-ranked team in Michigan State University. While Michigan is a tough opponent, they aren’t unbeatable.
Michigan’s pass offense has seemed to lack some explosion. Their quarterback is untested, especially against a defense like Georgia. And while Michigan’s defense is solid, Georgia’s offensive line can limit Michigan’s pass rush. With Bama playing the University of Cincinnati in the first round, the first Group of Five conference team to make the playoffs in the committee era, I believe the stage is set for a rematch. And with experience, tape, and a hunger for revenge, there is no reason this historically good Georgia team cannot win it all.
Will Murphy ’23
The College Football Playoff has been surrounded by controversy since its inception, but as it stands it allows four of the nation’s best teams to duke it out for the title of National Champion.
The University of Michigan is primed to make their first appearance in the event with a substantial chance to win. After the Wolverines took care of business against the University of Iowa in the Big Ten Championship, they were awarded a top-two seed in the bracket.
Michigan has taken strides this year, most recently toppling their fiercest rival, the Ohio State University, something they had not done since 2011. Although that win was impressive, it was only the tip of the iceberg for Michigan’s successes this year. They have beaten four teams nationally ranked in the Top 25, two of which were ranked in the Top 10.
Their rigorous schedule and playing in a competitive Big Ten conference have adequately prepared them for difficult games on the brightest stages. Michigan’s successes start with its defensive prowess. They have been able to limit nine of their twelve opponents to fewer than 20 points. Michigan is adept at forcing their opponents into turnovers, something that consistently plays a critical role in playoff games.
Additionally, Michigan has been able to avoid committing an excess of turnovers on offense, allowing them to control the ball and win the field position battle. Michigan’s turnover margin is one of the best in the country, and turnover margin is often a strong indicator of whether a team will find playoff success.
Another aspect of Michigan’s defense that limits opposing offenses is their pass rush. Senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has been all over opposing quarterbacks this year, tallying 14 total sacks, good for third in the nation.
Michigan’s prowess does not end with their defense either; they have a potent offense that can put up points in a hurry. For example, senior running back Hassan Haskins has been running all over strong defenses in the Big Ten this year. The ability to effectively run the ball allows Michigan to control the tempo of the game and avoid letting the game get away from them.
If Michigan can continue to do what they do best in the College Football Playoff, they will have a chance to be the first Big Ten team to win it since Ohio State won the event in its first year in 2015.
– Will Murphy ’23