The College Football Playoff is upon us. After months of speculation about who would end up in college football’s final four — and another month of trying to figure out what will happen once the actual teams were announced — we’ve reached the point where the only thing left to do is have the teams take the field and end the debate themselves.
But that doesn’t mean we are going to stop trying to figure it out before kickoff of the Fiesta Bowl commences Saturday afternoon from Glendale, Arizona, with action continuing as New Year’s Eve begins with the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
College Football Playoff cases: No. 1 Georgia | No. 2 Michigan | No. 3 TCU | No. 4 Ohio State
Will Georgia become the first repeat champion of the College Football Playoff era (and first program to do so since Alabama in 2011-12)? Will Michigan put last year’s blowout loss to Georgia behind it and finish the job this season? What about TCU? It’s the only one of the 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 the second chance given to them and bounce back from a second-straight loss to Michigan by taking down the defending champions?
We’ll find out soon enough, but for now, let’s try to figure out what’ll happen in Saturday night’s CFP semifinals.
2022 Fiesta Bowl: (2) Michigan vs. (3) TCU
Featured Game | Michigan Wolverines vs. TCU Horned Frogs
Spread: While there’s no question TCU earned its place in the playoff, I make no secret of my belief that the Horned Frogs are the “weakest” of the four teams in the field, at least from a power rating standpoint. TCU played the most one-score games this season out of the four. In fact, the Frogs’ six one-score games were more than the other three teams combined (three). Ohio State didn’t play in any. This is a team that found itself in a lot of close games and did the smart things good teams do to win them.
That’s not a knock on TCU, but it is a concern about what might happen when the Frogs run into elite competition, and that’s what you’re facing once you get this far. While TCU played a stronger overall schedule than Michigan, what you do to the competition you face isn’t considered often enough. Michigan may have played a weak nonconference slate, but it also beat Penn State and Ohio State by a combined 46 points. You can argue TCU didn’t play anybody as good as those teams this season. Michigan is built similarly to Kansas State in terms of its style of play and philosophy, and we saw how much trouble the Wildcats gave the Frogs this season. The difference? Michigan is far more talented. I can’t trust TCU to keep up in this one. Pick: Michigan -7.5
Total: The choice here is cut and dried. If you’re expecting Michigan to win, it’ll likely do so because it will stymy TCU’s offensive attack, leading to an under more often than not. If you think TCU will win, the Frogs will likely have to score at least 30 points and make it something of a shootout. That means the over is more likely to hit. The Wolverines are the better team and the one that wins far more often. Also, with this being a playoff game, expect Michigan to get conservative if it builds a lead and runs clock as it’s done to many of its opponents once it’s taken control of a game this season. Pick: Under 58.5
Prop: One of the most interesting parts of this matchup will be TCU’s pass offense vs. Michigan’s pass defense. Most of the damage Duggan and the Horned Frogs do through the air is via explosive plays. TCU’s offense ranks eighth nationally in explosive pass rate (20.4%); however, Duggan can be somewhat inconsistent on the shorter to intermediate throws. Michigan’s defense excels at keeping things in front of it and not allowing explosive plays. If the Wolverines can take that away, it’s hard to imagine Duggan racking up a lot of yards passing, even if TCU is trailing. Pick: Max Duggan Under 238.5 yards passing
2022 Peach Bowl: (1) Georgia vs. (4) Ohio State
Featured Game | Georgia Bulldogs vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Spread: The 2022 Georgia Bulldogs are not as good as last year’s national title-winning squad, 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 often, but when they do, there’s a theme. Last season, Oregon had a physical defensive front that posed problems for the Ohio State’s offense, pressured C.J. Stroud, and forced him to get off-script. Stroud struggles when forced to improvise. Michigan did the same thing late in the season and again this year.
Well, there aren’t many defensive fronts in the country as good or better than Georgia, and the Bulldogs defense will pressure Stroud. Georgia’s defense ranks only 41st nationally in pressure rate, but that’s more a byproduct of it not having to heat up opponents often this year. In big games, Georgia has stepped things up a notch, and it knows what it takes to slow down this Ohio State offense. We’ll probably see Georgia blitz more often than it has been, putting Stroud in uncomfortable situations. On the other side of the ball, we’ve seen teams like Penn State, Michigan and Maryland cause problems for the Ohio State secondary. While Georgia isn’t the most potent passing attack in the country, it’s better than most give it credit for and could cause problems. Pick: Georgia -6.5
Total: Is he really going to pick the favorites and the under for both games? He sure is! This is the same situation as the Fiesta Bowl. If you think Georgia wins, it will be a lower-scoring affair that sees the Bulldogs suffocate a potent Buckeyes offense. If you think Ohio State’s pulling off the upset, it’ll probably be because it does to the Georgia defense what Alabama did to it during 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 to Ohio State when it runs into teams that can punch it in the mouth. Pick: Under 62
Prop: While it isn’t tested often, we’ve seen that quick receivers can exploit Georgia’s secondary out of the slot. Remember what Jameson Williams was able to do to the Dawgs last year during the regular season? That’s the role Jaxon Smith-Njigba would be playing if he were available, but he is not. While Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. are fantastic players, they’re not burners. However, Julian Fleming could step into that role in this matchup. He’s not likely to see a heavy volume of targets, but he may only need one to win this prop. Pick: Julian Fleming Over 41.5 yards receiving
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