Best thing Bulldogs have going for them: Michigan isn’t Alabama

For just a moment, let us transform the most famous proper noun in college football into an improper verb.

The question then for Georgia and its impending playoff semifinal in South Florida becomes: Can Michigan do anything Dec. 31 to “Alabama” the Bulldogs?

Keep in mind that getting Alabama-ed is just about the most painful non-surgical procedure that any Georgia Bulldog ever will endure. It entails the removal of the heart without the use of tools or anesthesia. Just bare hands, unwashed at that.

Georgia, of course, was Alabama-ed all day long in the SEC Championship game. That being the only known way to stop these Bulldogs, it is natural to look at Michigan and wonder whether the Wolverines are capable of duplicating anything that has worked so well for Alabama.

In certain key ways, Michigan never will be able to go all-Alabama over the Bulldogs.

For one, there is no history with which to beat them before the national anthem even is sung. Alabama holds the advantage of certainty – having now beaten Georgia in seven consecutive meetings in every possible setting, be that regular season, conference championship or national championship. While both Georgia and Michigan have played football since the dawn of time, they’ve met only twice. And not since 1965. There might be some old Polaroid instant photos of that game somewhere.

With Michigan comes no scar tissue.

Jim Harbaugh is an odd fellow, but that doesn’t make him intimidating in the manner of Nick Saban. On the griddle when the season began, here is Harbaugh now the toast of the Wolverine State. But he certainly has no mystical hold on Georgia, and there is no reason to regard him as a wizard.

Lacking as well for Michigan is the type of quarterback so key to Alabama-izing Georgia. The Wolverines’ Cade McNamara is far closer to Stetson Bennett than to Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. It is impossible to even visualize McNamara throwing for 421 yards against the Bulldogs as did Young 11 days ago. McNamara has thrown for more than 250 yards in only three games this season, and for more than 300 yards once. And that was in a loss.

Nor does Michigan have the downfield threats to expose Georgia’s secondary, as when it got Alabama-ed. The Tide brought to the SEC Championship game a pair of 1,000-yard-plus receivers. Michigan top two receivers haven’t totaled 1,000 yards this season.

The Wolverines were unranked when this season began, making them only a slightly less surprising member of the playoff quartet than Cincinnati. Alabama has a standing reservation for this time of year, the playoff being its own brand of annual physical.

Where Michigan seems to show the most Crimson Tide-like traits is in some its more broad-shouldered, physical nature. If you’re going to Alabama the Bulldogs, you’re first going to have to out-muscle them.

Possessing the Big Ten’s leading rushing attack, Michigan might just be able to dent Georgia’s vaunted, rushing defense. You have a back – Hassan Haskins – capable of 20 rushing touchdowns, and who scored five times against Ohio State, then you have a punch that must be respected.

And Haskins’ running mate, Blake Corum, has more rushing touchdowns (11) than any Georgia player.

There was a defensive player who made the Heisman final cut this year, and it wasn’t Georgia’s Jordan Davis. That would be Michigan’s Aiden Hutchinson, he of 14 sacks, who in terms of potential impact may be as close to Alabama’s Will Anderson as any Bulldog likely will see. Or wants to see, certainly.

Anderson helped scramble Georgia in the SEC Championship game, posting a couple of tackles for a loss, a sack, and steady heat. Michigan’s Hutchinson has four sacks in his past two games – both high-profile contests against Ohio State and Iowa. He and David Ojabo (11 sacks) will look to similarly unsettle the Bulldogs.

By virtue of the fact that its pass blocking can be spotty at times, Georgia’s offensive line has abetted the team’s quarterback controversy. Bennett is Kirby Smart’s preferred quarterback largely for the fact he can flee trouble better than JT Daniels. At the same time, Bennett clearly was Alabama-ed two weeks ago, throwing two interceptions, one for a pick-six. He has as many interceptions as touchdowns – five – in two games against the Tide. We have no idea how Daniels would fare against Bama, as Smart has rendered him invisible in these fraught games.

There is one formula for Alabama-ing the Bulldogs in the semifinal: Smart starts Bennett; Michigan’s pass-rushers give him some Tide flashbacks; Daniels never leaves the anonymity of the sideline.

Still, Georgia can take heart in having been Alabama-ed and still be standing in the postseason.

“Like smelling salts, kind of woke us up a little bit,” linebacker Nakobe Dean said Wednesday of the first Alabama experience.

“We have a chip on our shoulder since the last time we were out there,” added running back James Cook. “We know what we have to do to improve, and we have another chance to go out there which is very special.”

Michigan is no Alabama. There’s only one of those. That, for this next game at least, is Georgia’s biggest plus.