This year’s College Football Playoff features a new team and also some familiar faces. Georgia is the reigning National Champion and is looking to build their own dynasty. Michigan made their first appearance last year and will attempt to build upon their success. TCU is the newcomer of the group coming off a fantastic first season with Sonny Dykes as their head coach. Ohio State is making their third appearance in four seasons under Ryan Day looking to prove they are still one of the nation’s best. One program will be crowned National Champion on the evening of January 9th.
#3 TCU vs #2 Michigan – Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, 4:00 PM EST
Our first semifinal game matches up TCU and Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. Michigan enters the game with an undefeated record and played their best football down the stretch. The Wolverines destroyed Ohio State in Columbus and carried their momentum to a Big Ten Championship. TCU had a Cinderella season after starting the season unranked and not being ranked until October. The Horned Frogs finished the regular season undefeated before losing to Kansas State in overtime of the Big 12 Championship.
Neither Michigan or TCU would be considered flashy by today’s standards but both programs have elite playmakers on both sides of the ball. Michigan will be without star running back Blake Corum after he needing surgery on his knee. The Wolverines have a more than suitable back up in Donovan Edwards. Edwards rushed for more than 400 combined yards against Ohio State and Purdue while also scoring three touchdowns. J.J. McCarthy is going to have most of the spotlight in this game after a strong finish to his season. McCarthy has a strong arm to stretch the defense and is a slippery runner when he gets out of the pocket. TCU will need to contain McCarthy and require him to go through his reads. McCarthy is dangerous when he gets out of the pocket where his receivers can break their route or he can opt to run the ball.
The Michigan defense was once again one of the best in the country. The Wolverines held opposing teams to just 13.4 points per game which ranked fifth in the country. The key for Michigan is going to be stopping the rushing attack. TCU struggled when they were inconsistent with rushing the ball and had to rely on the passing attack to win the football game. Kendre Miller is one of the most underrated running backs in the country and the Wolverines will likely need to make him a focal part of the game plan. The defense only allowed just 2.9 yards per carry this past season. Michigan also has an underrated secondary full of playmakers such as Will Johnson, Rod Moore, DJ Turner and Mike Sainristil. The four defensive backs combined for 22 passes defended and seven interceptions.
TCU is the underdog in this game but no one should be counting them out. The Horned Frogs are led by Heisman finalist Max Duggan who has already declared for the NFL draft. Duggan had a phenomenal season throwing for 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He is going to need to play his best game of the year against Michigan in order to have a chance. Luckily for Duggan, he has one of the nation’s top receivers on his side. Quentin Johnson is arguably the best big play receiver in the entire country. All of Johnson’s touchdown catches were at least 24 yards with multiple scores of at least 50 yards. His speed and size allow him to be a crucial playmaker for TCU. Johnson has the ability to be a difference maker for the Horned Frogs.
Michigan will have the chance to exploit weaknesses in TCU’s defense. The Horned Frogs defense was streaky at times this year finishing 56th in scoring defense. TCU struggled to contain opposing running backs at times this season but other games they were stout. Bijan Robinson was held to just 29 yards on 12 carries while Deuce Vaughn registered 130 yards and 5.0 yards per carry. Should TCU find a way to slow the rushing attack, they will put themselves in a great spot to win the game. TCU’s pass defense is one of the best in the country allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete less than 54% of their passes. The defense also forced 14 interceptions. Bud Clark led the team with four while Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Josh Newton each had three.
At surface level, this appears to be a game Michigan should win easily. After researching both programs and digging into their season, do not be surprised if TCU keeps this game close heading into the fourth quarter. Ultimately I have Michigan winning as they simply are more talented and have the experience being in this position. Jim Harbaugh is going to have his team ready and will likely have a few tricks up his sleeve.
Prediction: Michigan 33-24
#4 Ohio State vs #1 Georgia – Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, 8:00 PM EST
All eyes will be on Ohio State vs Georgia with the amount of star power on both teams. Georgia is defending their title and playing in their home state. The Bulldogs led by Kirby Smart come into this game as the favorite and fans understand why after watching them all season. No team was more dominant and consistent than Georgia this year. Ohio State has the talent to matchup with Georgia but inconsistency has been their biggest flaw. Ryan Day proved to be well prepared in his first two semifinal playoff appearances.
Georgia’s offense has a reputation of being low scoring and ineffective but they arguably had a better offense than last season. Stetson Bennett was a Heisman finalist and led the Bulldogs throwing for 3,425 yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. His biggest improvement was with his accuracy. Bennett’s completion percentage jumped from 64% to 67.9% this season. The Bulldogs once again have a stable of running backs. Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton all registered at least 500 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Georgia’s offense is dangerous when the running game is firing on all cylinders.
The x-factor for Georgia is their tight ends. Brock Bowers is one of the most dynamic players in the country and arguably the best tight end in college football. He finished the season with 726 receiving yards and 9 total touchdowns. The Bulldogs also have Darnell Washington who is a freaky athletic player who can split out wide. Bennett has relied on his tight ends this season and will likely rely on them against the Buckeyes. If Georgia can continue to find success in the running game, their passing attack will fare well.
The Georgia defense is once again loaded with talent across the field. Jalen Carter is one of the best defensive linemen in the country and could be selected with the number one pick in the NFL draft. Kelee Ringo is a lengthy lockdown corner who will have the assignment of stopping Marvin Harrison Jr or Emeka Egubka. Ringo is also expected to be a first round pick in next year’s NFL draft. Jamon Dumas-Johnson stepped into the spotlight at linebacker and led the team in tackles for loss and total tackles in his first year starting. The rush defense has continued to be one of the best in the country allowing just 77 yards per game. Look for Georgia to continue to dominate in the trenches.
Ohio State was selected to the College Football Playoffs after USC lost to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship. The Buckeyes ended their season with a demoralizing loss to Michigan on their home turf but have a chance for redemption. The Buckeyes are led by two time Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud who is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country. Stroud finished the year throwing 37 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Ohio State has one of the most explosive wide receiver duos in the country with Marvin Harrison Jr and Emeka Egubka. The pair combined for 138 receptions, 2,196 yards and 23 total touchdowns.
One of the biggest concerns for Ohio State is the running back position. TreVeyon Henderson had surgery and is out for the year. Miyan Williams also missed time this year due to injuries and may not be fully healthy heading into the Peach Bowl. The Buckeyes will likely need to rely on true freshman Dallan Hayden and Arizona State transfer Chip Traynum. Ohio State struggled to run the ball consistently this season so missing one of their top running backs and also facing one of the best rush defenses in the country is not a recipe for success.
Ohio State’s passing defense was their biggest issue this season. The Buckeyes did not face many top tier quarterbacks but they struggled when they did. The three toughest games for Ohio State were Penn State, Maryland and Michigan. All three had mobile quarterbacks who gave Ohio State’s secondary trouble. The defensive line will be the biggest key for Ohio State as they need to force pressure and put Georgia’s offense in obvious passing down situations. Zach Harrison, J.T. Tuimoloau, Michael Hall and Jack Sawyer have been inconsistent but all have first round potential and will need to wreck havoc to give Ohio State a chance.
Talent wise, the two teams are comparable. Both schools recruit incredibly well and are loaded with five star player across the board. Georgia is approaching Nick Saban levels with their dominance and I believe that trend continues on Saturday. Georgia struggled at times this year against inferior opponents but Ohio State will not catch them off guard. Smart has had a month to prepare for Ohio State’s offense and he will have a plan to shut down Harrison and Egbuka. Ohio State will keep it close until halftime but Georgia will pull away in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Georgia 38-21
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