Most college football fans’ and bettors’ eyes will be on the two playoff semi-final matchups today. Alabama takes on Cincinnati, the first non-Power 5 team to ever make the playoffs, in the Cotton Bowl. Then, Michigan and Georgia face off in the Orange Bowl tonight. Both spreads are more than a touchdown.
This isn’t the only potential action of the day, however. Two bowl games that look different than they did when they were originally scheduled will nonetheless kick off as Wake Forest faces Rutgers (previously Texas A&M) in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl and Washington State goes to battle against Central Michigan (previously the Miami Hurricanes).
These are our favorites sides for the two playoff games, plus a bonus play on another contest we can’t pass up:
Alabama’s spread here isn’t quite as big as theirs against Notre Dame in the college football playoff last year (19 points), but they’re certainly one of the bigger favorites in playoff history.
All of Alabama’s opponents in this large-spread games were all Power 5 teams – conference champions who ran the gauntlet in the regular season for the privilege of getting pounded by college football’s most enduring dynasty. Cincinnati, meanwhile, comes into this game undefeated, having plowed through the American Athletic Conference and teams like Houston, SMU, Tulsa, and Tulane to get here.
To be fair to coach Luke Fickell and the Bearcats, they did beat bigger programs earlier this season when they traveled to Indiana and Notre Dame, but they won’t be prepared for the talent Alabama can throw at them on either side of the ball.
The playoff committee seemed lukewarm all season long when it came to Cincinnati’s placement here, and they only seemingly got in for a lack of other options. They had a great season, but the run stops here. And with a spread that’s less than two touchdowns, it’s fairly easy to lay the points.
The more intriguing playoff semi-final showcases Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines and Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs – two teams stacked with defensive studs who will soon enough be suiting up in the NFL.
Georgia seemed like the best team in the country for most of the year until Alabama took it to them in the SEC Championship game by the score of 41-24. It was Georgia’s only loss this season and the only time they gave up more than 17 points to an opponent.
Michigan’s path through the Big Ten was a little more of a surprise, but they’ve been anchored by star defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson (a rare defensive Heisman finalist) and David Ojabo. The lost a game mid-season against their in-state rival Michigan State Spartans, but following that, they took it to Ohio State and Iowa to punch their ticket here.
Georgia has the defensive edge in this game, but if Hutchinson and Ojabo can get pressure on Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett, he could turn the ball over like he did against Alabama, giving the Wolverines’ offense a field position advantage. With the extra hook on the touchdown, it makes sense to take the points with Michigan in what could end up being a fairly low-scoring affair.
Wake Forest went from touchdown underdogs to two-touchdown favorites when 5-7 Rutgers took the place of the Texas A&M Aggies in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. That seems fairly appropriate considering how many points the Demon Deacons have scored this year (41.3 per game, the fourth highest in the country) and how few the Scarlet Knights have scored (18.3 per game, 118th in the country).
But when you look a little harder, you see a Wake Forest team that has struggled mightily with turnovers lately (11 picks in its last five games) and cannot stop the run (114th in the country). Rutgers is playing with house money, and with such a big spread and far less time to properly prep, take the points in this one.