This year’s college football playoffs may be the most intriguing in recent memory. Cincinnati is the first group of five team to make the playoffs. Jim Harbaugh has helped Michigan over the hump and successfully made the playoffs. Georgia has returned to the playoffs for the first time since the infamous walk-off loss to Alabama. Then we have Nick Saban and Alabama who are the favorites to win the National Title once again.
Cotton Bowl: #4 Cincinnati vs #1 Alabama (3:30 PM, ESPN) – The biggest matchup in this game is Jameson Williams vs Coby Bryant and Sauce Gardner. Williams has been one of the best receivers in the country this past season but he will be even more vital to Alabama’s offense after John Metchie’s season ending injury. Alabama’s third wide receiver is Slade Bolden who only had 333 receiving yards this past season. Receivers such as Bolden, Ja’Corey Brooks, JoJo Earle and Javon Baker will be expected to step up. Bryant and Gardner are two of the best defensive backs in the country. Bryant won the Thorpe award but many experts consider Gardner the better cornerback. Cincinnati will need to slow down Alabama’s passing attack in order to stand a chance in this game. If Alabama is able to open up the passing game, Cincinnati will have a tough time keeping pace.
When Cincinnati has the ball, they will run their offense through Jerome Ford. Ford had over 1,200 rushing yards and averaged more than six yards per carry. The Crimson Tide defense only allows 2.5 yard per carry which could cause issues for the Cincinnati offense. Quarterback Desmond Ridder does not have the arm talent like Bryce Young, but he does have the ability to be efficient with the ball. Ridder threw 30 touchdowns to only eight interceptions in 2021 but six of those interceptions came in the last seven games. Ridder consistently spreads the ball around to his receivers. Alec Pierce will be his main target after leading the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Alabama’s pass defense has struggled at times but they finished the season strong. Will Anderson for Alabama will be the biggest factor on defense. Anderson will be responsible for keeping the Bearcats in third down and long situations. The Cincinnati offense converted on third down at only 41% which is in the bottom half of FBS.
The outcome of this game will ultimately come down the line of scrimmage. The biggest difference between group of five and power five teams are the offensive and defensive line. Cincinnati is much better than most group of five teams as we saw the Bearcats top Indiana and Notre Dame this past season. The Bearcats have a veteran defensive line which should be able to cause Alabama some trouble. Ultimately I believe Alabama’s offensive line is able to provide enough protection to allow Bryce Young enough time to find his receivers. I would love to see Cincinnati pull the upset, but Nick Saban knows how to win these games. Alabama 38-17
Orange Bowl: #3 Georgia vs #2 Michigan (7:30 PM, ESPN) – The Over/Under for this game is set at 45.5 and my free advice of the week is to take the under. Both of these teams play an old school style of football where they run the ball efficiently and control the clock. Georgia has six running backs with at least 45 carries this season. Zamir White and James Cook will be the main two out of the backfield. Michigan will primarily use Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum but Donovan Edwards may get a few carries as well. Georgia averages 194 yards rushing per game while Michigan averages 223 yards rushing per game. Both teams will continue to rely heavily on their rushing attack to give them a chance at winning the game.
Georgia and Michigan have two of the top defenses in college football. Georgia is second in the country in yards per game (254.4) and and first in yards per play (4.02). Michigan is 12th in yards per game (316.7) and 10th in yards per play (4.73). Georgia’s defense is led by All-American defensive tackle Jordan Davis. Davis may not have the stats to draw attention but his 6’6″ 340 pound frame requires extra attention. He is excellent at beating one on one matchups and will need to be double teamed for most of the game. Michigan has their own All-American on the defensive line in Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson set the Michigan record for sacks in a single season (14) and was a finalist of the Heisman Trophy. Georgia will not be able to focus all their attention Hutchinson or David Ojabo will have a big game. Ojabo led Michigan in forced fumbles (5) and recorded 11 sacks himself.
The matchup between Georgia and Michigan will come down to the quarterbacks. Neither quarterback is destined for the first round of the NFL draft. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett replaced JT Daniels after Daniels went down with an injury. Bennett looked good against inferior opponents but struggled to find consistency against Alabama in the SEC title game. Bennett’s mobility will be important against Michigan since the Wolverines love to rush the passer. Michigan’s Cade McNamara will not blow you away with his arm talent. McNamara does not take many risks and has the ability to escape the pocket. McNamara is not an elusive runner but he is mobile enough to extend plays and avoid pass rushers. Turnovers will be the biggest key in this game. Neither team may get many opportunities to score and if someone does force a turnover, they have to capitalize. I think Michigan’s defensive line will force at least two turnovers and help the Wolverines advance to the National Title. Michigan 20-17