The College Football Playoff is upon us. After all the speculation about who will end up in college football’s Final Four — and another month of trying to figure out what will happen once the actual teams are announced — we’ve reached the point where the only thing left to do. Teams take the field and finish the debate on their own.
But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying to figure it out before the Fiesta Bowl kickoff from Glendale, Arizona, on Saturday afternoon, when the action continues on New Year’s Eve with the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
Will Georgia become the first repeat champion of the College Football Playoff era (and the first program to do so since Alabama in 2011-12)? Will Michigan put last year’s loss to Georgia behind it and finish the job this season? What about TCU? It is one of four teams making its debut in the CFP. Will it continue its Cinderella story? And then there’s Ohio State. Will the Buckeyes take advantage of their second chance and bounce back from their second straight loss to Michigan by knocking off the defending champs?
We’ll find out soon enough, but for now, let’s try to figure out what happens in Saturday night’s CFP semifinals.
2022 Fiesta Bowl: (2) Michigan vs. (3) TCU
Special game | Michigan Wolverines vs. TCU Horned Frogs
spreading: While there’s no question that TCU has earned its spot in the playoff race, I’ve made no secret of my belief that the Horned Frogs are the “weakest” of the four teams in the field. TCU had the most one-score games of the season in those four. In fact, the Frogs’ six one-score games were more than three other teams combined (three). Ohio State didn’t play at all. It found itself in many close games and did the smart things that good teams do to win them.
That’s not a knock on TCU, but a concern about what will happen when the Frogs get into elite competition, and that’s what you face when you get this far. Although TCU has played a stronger overall schedule than Michigan, what you do with the competition you face is not considered good enough. Michigan may have played a weak conference slate, but it beat Penn State and Ohio State by 46 points. You could argue that TCU hasn’t played as well as those teams this season. Michigan is built similar to Kansas State in terms of its playing style and philosophy, and we’ve seen how much trouble the Wildcats have given the Frogs this season. The difference? Michigan is very talented. I can’t believe TCU keeps this up. Pick: Michigan -7.5
Total: Here the selection is cut and dried. If you expect Michigan to win, it will win more often than not because it will stifle TCU’s offensive attack. If you think TCU is going to win, the Frogs need to score at least 30 points to make it a shootout. That means there is a high chance of overscoring. The Wolverines are the best team and the team that wins most often. And, since it’s a playoff game, expect Michigan to be conservative when it takes control of a game this season, blowing the lead and running the clock, as it has done for many of its opponents. Exam: Under 58.5
2022 Beach Bowl: (1) Georgia vs. (4) Ohio State
Special game | Georgia Bulldogs vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
spreading: The 2022 Georgia Bulldogs aren’t as good as last year’s national title winning team, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still the best team in the country. They pose a particular matchup problem for Ohio State. The Buckeyes don’t lose games or struggle very often, but when they do, there’s a theme. Last season, causing problems for Ohio State’s offense, C.J. Oregon had a physical defensive front that pressured Strode and forced him to go off script. Stroud struggles with being forced to improve. Michigan did the same late in the season again this year.
With no defensive ends as good or better than Georgia’s in the country, the Bulldogs defense will pressure Strode. Georgia’s defense ranks 41st nationally in pressure rating, but it hasn’t had to heat up opponents very often this year. In big games, Georgia has stepped it up a notch, and it knows what it needs to do to slow down this Ohio State offense. We’ve often seen the Georgia blitz put Stroud in awkward situations. On the other side of the ball, we’ve seen teams like Penn State, Michigan and Maryland cause problems for Ohio State’s secondary. While Georgia may not be the most powerful offense in the country, it is better than most give it credit for and can cause problems. Pick: Georgia -6.5
Total: Is he really going to pick favorites and underdogs for both games? He sure is! This is also the case with the Fiesta Bowl. If you think Georgia will win, it will be a low-scoring affair where the Bulldogs suffocate a potent Buckeyes offense. If you think Ohio State is pulling off an upset, it may have done to Georgia’s defense what Alabama did in the 2021 season. After all, Ohio State is one of the few teams with the quarterback and wide receiver talent to take advantage of potential weaknesses in the Georgia secondary. The problem is, we’ve seen what happens when Ohio State runs into teams that can punch in the mouth. Eligibility: Below 62
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