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It will be the Georgia Bulldogs and Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31.
The winner of the game will advance to the national championship to take on the winner of the Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Cincinnati.
Michigan enters the game as the No. 2 seed after defeating Iowa and winning the Big Ten championship. Georgia is the No. 3 team after a loss to Alabama in the SEC championship.
After the playoff rankings and pairings were announced, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media to discuss the season so far and his early thoughts on the Bulldogs.
On first impressions of Georgia
“I’ve watched them. I’ve watched them throughout the year. General impressions are rugged. It’s a rugged, tough, tough squad. They play extremely well on all sides of the ball and special teams. Gonna be really, really excited to dig into it and study it. But, yeah, that’s the word that came to my mind.”
On his thoughts about if Michigan should have been the No. 1 seed
“Yeah, um … I mean, the facts are you’ve gotta win two games to be the national champion. My thoughts, and from what I can tell from all the players, it didn’t make any difference what seed we were. Even had a bunch of conversations with guys and that’s what their thoughts were, and I echo those.
It’s ‘why stop now, why not us?’ We’re gonna take a few days off here and coaches will immediately start preparation for the game.”
On whether he has talked to brother-in-law and Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean
“We have not talked since this morning about that. But I have talked to him about what he thinks of Georgia and the football staff. He loves Georgia, he loves the staff there. Nothing but ultimate respect.”
On what the last 24 hours have felt like for him
“Felt really good. Felt great. As I said, just the way our team played. You’ve gotta play good. There was a lot riding on the game and it has been that way for awhile now, where you have to win to move on. That’s that playoff mindset that there is. Our team’s been in that realm for weeks now. And how they respond to that is really good. They prepare, they get into the game, they’re focused on doing their job.”
On which Georgia players stand out. Harbaugh started with the linebackers
“Georgia’s offense or Georgia’s defense? Both, really. Yeah, you can point to both. The linebacking corps, those are some of the best linebackers I’ve seen. Just watching it as you look through the keyhole, but that jumps out at you real quick. Yeah, super impressed with the playmakers.”
Discusses Georgia's discipline, playmakers
“There’s quite a few guys on the roster: offense, defense. Guys that we remember recruiting and watching in high school and now to see them as expected being great players in college.
Physical, rugged team in the lines. Skilled players, smart players. You don’t know the schemes, you don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish really when you’re watching it on TV but it jumps out to you pretty quick that there’s not a lot of mental error, there’s not a lot of people going the wrong way or doing things you wouldn’t want your players doing if you’re a coach. So, all those things and other things are the first things that jump out at you. To me, anyway.”
On if he's been to Athens and if coach Crean knows as much about football as he claims to
“Yes, I have physically been in Athens. Had the pleasure of going to a basketball game there, staying at Tom and Joani’s house. Drive around campus.
Yeah, Tom knows a lot about football. Certainly, he knows a lot more about football than I know about basketball. And I thought I knew a lot about basketball, too. Played basketball in high school. But yeah, being around his meetings and being around his staff, I’ve sat on the bench or in the stands right behind him and watched him coach. You realize I don’t know too much about basketball. Not as much as he knows about football anyway.”
On how difficult it is for opposing teams to game-plan for Michigan's offensive playmakers
“That’s a really good question. I would say it’s a lot of fun, though. It’s a lot of fun strategically to get guys in the game, utilize their skill set. I think of the receivers. There’s a lot of good ones, so many good ones. And they do a tremendous job catching the ball and knowing when their time comes. They just step up. Same with the tight ends. You really saw that in the ball game last night. Erick All makes a couple great catches. Schoony makes a couple great catches. Our backs.
In the throw game, Cade’s done a great job of distributing the ball, so has J.J., to playmakers. They’re fun to game plan for, and Josh does a great job of doing that and calling the game.
And the run game, there’s so many guys getting involved. It’s great to see our receivers blocking on the perimeter, our tight ends on the edges and in the perimeter and all the different variety of things our tight ends do and different ways that complements play-action passing.
And the offensive line, they have a lot of fun with it, too. They’re super stimulated; pass protect, run block, zone block, gap scheme, insert plays, perimeter, perimeter sweeps, pin and pulls. Fun to watch Sherrone coach that and game plan for that as well.
Yeah, from my standpoint, I would think it’s somewhat challenging as a defense, seeing different personnel groups and different schemes. I think it would be. And all those options are open. Did that answer the question?”