Why Michigan can win the College Football Playoff in 2021

No. 2 Michigan enters the College Football Playoff with a 12-1 record and a chance to win a national championship under coach Jim Harbaugh.

The Wolverines stayed in the spotlight after beating Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten championship game. Michigan faces No. 3 Georgia in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Gardens, Fla.

Here is a closer look at Michigan’s playoff history, and the reasons why the Wolverines will (or won’t) win a national championship in 2021:

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Michigan’s College Football Playoff history

Michigan is making its first CFP appearance, a product of the program’s first Big Ten championship since 2004. 

The Wolverines have been regulars in the BCS and New Year’s Day Six. Michigan finished 2-3 in BCS bowls, but they are 0-2 in New Year’s Day Six Bowls under Harbaugh.

Here is a look at those two losses

 

Michigan has not won a national championship since 1997. 

CFP championship odds

According to Fanduel.com, The Wolverines have the third-best odds to win the national championship behind Alabama and Georgia.

 

Michigan vs. Georgia odds

According to Fanduel.com, Georgia is a 7.5-point favorite in the Orange Bowl matchup against Michigan. The teams have split two previous matchups. The Wolverines are 11-2 ATS in 2021. The Bulldogs are 8-5 ATS this season.

Why Michigan will win national title

Perhaps no team is playing with more confidence. The Wolverines finally beat Ohio State, broke the Big Ten championship drought and now have a chance to prove it against one of the SEC powerhouse schools that Harbaugh tweaked during his satellite camp tours.

Georgia is a challenge. The Bulldogs average 194.9 yards per game rushing with an attack that will test Michigan on the interior. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo have to land on third-down pressures, and the secondary can’t have breakdowns.

That is not even the hard part. Can Michigan’s receivers challenge Georgia’s defensive backs enough so that Cade McNamar isn’t in third-and-long situations? Will Michigan get enough out of the running game against a defense that allowed 81.7 rushing yards and three TDs all season? Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis will have to be more creative than ever.

It’s a tough matchup, but the Wolverines and Bulldogs want to do the same things. If Michigan can pull the upset here, then they will have even more confidence heading into a matchup against Alabama. The Crimson Tide won 35-16 in the 2020 Citrus Bowl, but the Wolverines led at halftime. How much have things changed since?

Why Michigan won’t win national title

Georgia might be too good on defense, and Harbaugh will have to deviate from what he likes to do early. The Bulldogs lost to Alabama because the Crimson Tide chose to air it out.

The Bulldogs don’t force a lot of turnovers, but they have allowed 14.4 first downs per game. It’s like playing a much-more talented version of Wisconsin, and one that is content at playing in a phone-booth on both sides. 

Can Michigan stop the run enough and prevent quarterback Stetson Bennett from making pivotal down-field throws, especially to tight end Brock Bowers? It’s a huge challenge, and Alabama could be waiting afterward. 

That is a lot to ask from Harbaugh’s best team yet. 

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