Jim Harbaugh built this Michigan roster with a very specific blueprint in mind – beating Ohio State. Been there; done that.

Now comes a task his team was not explicitly built for: beating the mighty SEC, starting with No. 3 Georgia in the Orange Bowl.

But like philosopher Patches O’Houlihan once noted, if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. Or in this case, if you can beat the Buckeyes, you can beat the Bulldogs. Ohio State is the only Big Ten team with SEC-caliber talent and speed.

But there is a twist to this task.

With the exception of its secondary, Ohio State’s speed and talent is tilted to its offense. Georgia’s swath of 5-stars play defense. And even though Alabama exposed that defense in the SEC championship game, the Crimson Tide have a gear Michigan’s offense might not be able to reach. It’s not realistic to expect the Wolverines to get into the 40s, or perhaps even the 30s.

That means we are likely looking at a slugfest, and with the over-under set at 43 points, that’s certainly what oddsmakers are anticipating. (For perspective, the Big Ten championship game opened at 42.5, and that was likely out of respect to the possibility Iowa’s defense would score a touchdown.)

The good news, as it pertains to this matchup, is that Michigan’s defense has a chance to overpower the Bulldogs.

That might come as news to Georgia fans given that the Dawgs are 7th nationally in scoring with 39.4 points per game. But Ohio State is No. 1 in that category, and the Wolverines have proven capable of clearing such hurdles.

The Bulldogs get less formidable when facing ranked opponents, as one would expect. In 4 games against Top 25 foes, Georgia rates 31st in the country with 25.3 points per game. In yards per play, Georgia drops from 5th nationally overall (7.94 YPP) to 23rd (5.9 YPP) when facing ranked teams.

Alabama in particular demonstrated Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett’s vulnerability to pressure.

With Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo both among the nation’s top 10 in sacks, Michigan can duplicate that pressure.

Offensively, the Wolverines will be challenged to get into rhythm. But they’re certainly capable of doing enough to win.

Georgia ranks 2nd nationally in total defense, behind only Wisconsin. And though it’s not apples-to-apples – the Dawgs have more speed than the Badgers – it’s worth noting Michigan aced that test. The Wolverines put up 365 yards in their 38-17 win at Wisconsin.

How Michigan matches with Alabama

If Michigan advances to face The Final Boss (sorry, Cincinnati), the same blueprint can also carry over.

Alabama is No. 1 for a reason, but there’s also a reason it took so long for the Crimson Tide to ascend to their birthright spot in the pecking order. There are some flaws to Nick Saban’s insanely talented squad, though you have to hope those kinks have not been ironed out.

Alabama’s lone loss is to Texas A&M, which is a team that has a basic structural resemblance to Michigan. The Aggies are 3rd in the country in scoring defense; the Wolverines are 4th.

Much more recently, Auburn’s defensive front was able to put Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young under plenty of duress. The Tigers sacked Young 7 times before letting the game slip away in quadruple-overtime.

Once again, Hutchinson and Ojabo are capable of duplicating that feat.

Furthermore, a traditional Alabama strength does not match up with Michigan’s defensive weakness this season.

As Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker showed, the Wolverines can be had against the run with the right combination of scheme and talent. But the typically plug-and-play Tide haven’t had an easy time finding their next Najee Harris (or Derrick Henry or Mark Ingram) this season. Bama is only 80th nationally in rushing yardage. Prior to this year, no team in Nick Saban’s tenure finished worse than 46th in that category.

None of this should be taken as a guarantee that Michigan is on the way to its first national championship since 1997. Despite having the better seed, the Wolverines are touchdown underdogs against Georgia. And they’ll be underdogs again if they get Bama.

But Michigan was an even bigger underdog on its own home field against Ohio State. And we saw how that worked out.

Between its relentless pass rush and an offense that minimizes mistakes, these Wolverines are the rare team capable of back-to-back wins against top-tier SEC foes.