Throughout most of its history, the College Football Playoff semifinal games have not had much drama associated with them.
Going into this year’s playoff, just three of the previous 16 games have been decided by one score. This year’s top-two seeds are favored by around a touchdown, so that could bode well for them. Chalk, however, is not the norm in this mini-tournament. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have met in the championship in three of the eight title games, and it hasn’t happened since Alabama vs. Clemson in 2019.
Overall, No. 1 Georgia is favored to do something that hasn’t happened in the eight-year history of the Playoff—repeat as national champions.
At all of the major sportsbooks, the Bulldogs have minus-odds to win the national championship.
BEST ODDS TO WIN COLLEGE FB PLAYOFF
Ohio State Buckeyes
+360 (Caesars Sportsbook)
TCU Horned Frogs
Fiesta Bowl Preview: Michigan Takes on TCU in First Semifinal Game on New Year’s Eve
No. 2 Michigan (13-0) already were one better than they were during the regular season a year ago, when they were the No. 2 seed in the playoffs before getting blitzed by Georgia 34-11 in the Orange Bowl.
Last year’s season ended at 12-2 after a win at home over Ohio State and a one-sided victory over Iowa in the Big Ten title game. This year, after losing significant weapons on offense and defense, the Wolverines not only didn’t lose a game all year, but they went into the Horseshoe and handily beat then-No. 2 Ohio State as over a touchdown underdog. A win over Purdue in the Big Ten championship game put them into this matchup with the Horned Frogs.
TCU finished their regular season at 12-0, beating solid if unspectacular Big 12 teams like Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Baylor. They rematched with Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game but fell to the Wildcats in overtime. Despite losing their undefeated season, they were deemed the best of the one-loss teams and earned the No. 3 ranking to end the season.
Both teams are among the best offenses in the nation, each averaging 40 points per game. Michigan hasn’t been all that hampered by the loss of running back Blake Corum, as they scored 88 points in their last two games without him.
The Frogs have 3,000-yard passer Max Duggan (30 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) and running back Kendre Miller’s 1,342 yards and 17 touchdowns to lean on. Neither team turns the ball over often, as the starting QBs have combined for just seven picks all season.
What could make the difference here is the Wolverines’ defense. They have allowed just 13 points per game this year, whereas TCU is allowing 25 per contest. The Frogs have been held below their scoring average in four of their last five games too.
Both teams have been solid against the spread, with Michigan going 8-4-1 and TCU sitting at 9-3-1 ATS. The line opened at -9 for Michigan and has since been bet down to 7.5. The over-under total was at 60 and is now 58.5.
Due to the differences in the defense and with the Wolverines having the advantage of playing in this game last year and being able to learn lessons from that loss, we favor Michigan in a relatively high-scoring game similar to their previous two contests.
Prediction: Michigan 41, TCU 27 (MICH -7.5, over 58.5)
Peach Bowl: Georgia Doesn’t Venture Far From Home Against No. 4 Ohio State
Ohio State (11-1) finds itself in the shoes of Georgia from a year ago. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes lost their perfect season in the last game they played—a 45-23 loss to Michigan, which was similar to the Bulldogs’ one-sided loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game in 2021.
What might be overlooked, however, is how dominant the Buckeyes were in their first 11 games. In wins over the likes of Notre Dame and Penn State, Ohio State won all of their games by double digits and averaged 44 points per game in doing so. Even after allowing at least 30 points in three of their last five games, the defense gave up just 19.3 PPG this season.
Quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud threw for 37 TDs and six interceptions. His counterpart Stetson Bennett had just 20 touchdowns but the same number of interceptions and around the same number of yards (approximately 3,400). Marvin Harrison Jr. led both teams in receiving with 1,157 yards and 12 TD. The running game is largely equal—both teams averaged around 200 yards per game. Miyan Williams led Ohio State with 817 yards and 13 TD, while Kenny McIntosh had 709 yards and 10 scores.
Georgia has the better defense, especially as of late. Most of the 30 points they gave up to LSU were when the SEC championship game was already decided, and they held teams to 20 or fewer in their eight games prior to that contest. They’ve allowed slightly more passing yards than OSU, but the Buckeyes haven’t been as good against the run.
The line has hovered around a touchdown since the game was announced on Dec. 4. After opening at -7 in favor of Georgia, it now stands at -6.5. The total opened at 60.5 but is up to 63. Georgia will be playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the third time this season after opening their campaign there with a blowout win over Oregon and controlling the game their last time out in a 50-30 win over LSU in the SEC title game.
While Georgia was a solid playoff team despite the loss to Alabama last year, Ohio State needed help getting in this year. USC’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 title game gave the Trojans a second loss, and the Crimson Tide also had two losses on the year, so the Buckeyes found their way into the playoff. Don’t expect them to squander this missed opportunity.
Prediction: Georgia 30, Ohio State 28 (OHIO ST +6.5, under 62)