College Football Playoff Predictions
A Comprehensive Look At The Semi-Finals
I’m taking a brief break from talking professional football to talking a little college ball. If you don’t want any part of it, I will not stop you. Just know I’m a very sensitive person and I will never forget!
I haven’t talked too much about the college football season because I’m a Florida Gator fan, and we sucked. Like my Atlanta Falcons, the Florida Gators have put me in a constant state of depression throughout the football year. Throw in my fantasy football team, and it doesn’t get any better.
Anyway, the college football playoffs are right around the corner, and I wanted to preview each of the games and give you all my pick for who will win the National Championship.
Before I get into the games, you’re probably wondering who features in the running for the championship. The Alabama Crimson Tide is the favorite and the best team in the country. Coach Nick Saban is looking for another National Championship to add to their ever-growing dynasty.
Their opponent is the Cincinnati Bearcats, who are looking at the unthinkable: beat Alabama and win the National Championship. The CFP committee took a chance in letting the Bearcats in the tournament, so Luke Fickell’s squad will probably play with a massive chip on their shoulder.
The other matchup features the Georgia Bulldogs, who are looking to give Georgia fans something to be excited about finally. Led by a fierce defense, the Dawgs have been on top of the football mountain for the entire season, but is this the year they finally breakthrough for their first National Championship since 1980?
For that to happen, they have to get through Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines, who are making their first CFP appearance after capturing their first even Big 10 Title. Like Georgia, Michigan is led by their stout defense and is looking to prove that they belong with the big boys.
Now that you have some idea about what we are dealing with, let's go over the matchups.
CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
4) Cincinnati Bearcats (12-0) vs. 1) Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1)
Friday, December 31st, 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN Line: ALA -13.5
The Alabama Crimson Tide comes into this game as the heavy favorite and the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing. After defeating Georgia to win the SEC Championship, they sit at 12-1 and are the number one team. Nick Saban is the college version of Bill Bellichick as he looks for his seventh career title and sixth with the Crimson Tide.
The Tide are led by freshman QB Bryce Young, who is fresh off winning the Heisman Trophy, and LB Will Anderson is one of the top defensive playmakers in the entire nation. Young can spread the ball around and is an excellent game manager, and he's weapons on the outside like the speedy Jameson Williams and the reliable tight end, Jahleel Billingsley. Another player worth mentioning on the offense is RB Brian Robinson, who expected to be healthy and ready to go.
Anderson is arguably the best player on the defensive side and is easily the most significant on the team. Anderson leads the nation in sacks (15.5) and tackles loss (31). If Alabama wants to win this game, they have to make sure Anderson gets involved early. Alabama's defense has given up lots of yards and points to opposing teams this season, but Anderson is the one consistent part of that defense; they need him to play well.
For those of you that haven't kept up with the college football season, the Cincinnati Bearcats are considered a "Cinderella Story." After completing an undefeated season and beating the Houston Cougars in the AAC (American Athletic Conference) Championship, the Bearcats are the first "Group of Five" team to appear in the CFP.
HC Luke Fickel has turned the program from a laughing stock to a legit contender, winning the Coach of the Year in the process. Having beaten the likes of Indiana and Notre Dame on the road will certainly help their case for being in this spot. The great thing about Fickel is that it feels like he's just getting started in Cincy. Since arriving in 2016, Fickell has steadily improved with every season, and he thinks he has finally built a winning team this season.
QB Desmond Ridder leads the charge on the offense as he comes into this game as one of the top QB in this year's NFL draft class. His senior season was his best season by far, as he threw for 3,190 with 30 TDs against just eight INTs. Ridder has a chance to boost his draft stock even more on Friday as Alabama's defense has been known to give up big plays down the field this season. Ridder is more than capable of making plays with his arm, but he is also a proven runner.
If Cincy wants to win this game, they have to figure out how to make Bryce Young uncomfortable. The Bearcats have one of the best secondaries in the country, with Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant leading the charge on the outside. However, the front-seven for the Bearcats has to get to the QB. It will be a long night for the Cincy defense if they can.
I think Cincinnati will come out with something to prove and give Alabama a fight for at least a half. However, I believe Bryce Young and the Bama offense have too much firepower. I think Alabama wins the game by pulling away late, but don't count out the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Pick: Alabama (38-24)
CFP Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl
3) Georgia Bulldogs (12-1) vs. 2) Michigan Wolverines (12-1)
Friday, December 31st, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN Line: UGA -7.5
Because I'm a Florida Gator fan, I have to deal with the Georgia Bulldogs every year, which means tons of Georgia fans blabbering about how this year is going to be "the year." The one thing is that it never does end up being their year. I always look forward to watching Georgia fans get their hope sucked out of them each year; however, this year might be their year.
Kirby Smart's squad seems to have the formula needed to come out on top. The Dawgs' defense has been consistent all year in being dominant. DT Jordan Davis has been a force to be reckoned with; it doesn't matter how many guys try to block him. He's unblockable! LB Nakobe Dean has also been a force on the defensive side. I can go on and on about this defense; it's that good! They didn't allow a single opponent to score more than 20 points a game in the regular season.
While their defense is rock-solid, their offense is starting to find its rhythm. QB Stetson Bennett has put together a solid season, and freshman TE Brock Bowers has been incredibly versatile in the passing game, possessing some elusiveness in the open field. They expect their WR, George Pickens, to return after missing the entire regular season due to injury. Their strength on the offense has been their running game. Both James Cook and Zamir White are weapons in the backfield and have carried the Bulldog offense. It won't be easy for the Dawgs to pound against the Michigan defense.
If you were to tell me at the beginning of the season that the Michigan Wolverines would be in the CFP, I would laugh in your face. Through the season, Jim Harbaugh's squad snuck up the rankings and crushed their bitter rival Ohio State at the end of the season to earn their place in the Big 10 title game. After destroying Iowa in the championship game, Michigan secured their spot in the playoffs for the first time in school history. The Wolverines are looking for their first title since 1997.
This Michigan team matches up so well with the Bulldogs on paper. Like the Dawgs, the defense runs supreme. Michigan's defense consists of DE Aiden Hutchinson, who is projected as the number one overall pick. The senior defensive end ranks second in the nation in sacks (14.5) and, like Jordan Davis, is an absolute monster on the interior. LB David Ojabo is another critical player worth mentioning as he ranks just behind his teammate, Hutchinson, in team tackles. The one issue is Michigan may not be without top DB Daxton Hill, whose status remains unclear for Friday's game.
Michigan's offense revolves around their running game, much like the Georgia offense. RBs Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum have sparked to the Michigan ground game, while QB Cade McNamara does his thing in the passing game.
Unlike the first game, I believe this game revolves around the defense, with the game being low-scoring. As a Gator fan, I'm pulling for Michigan, but I know in my heart that Georgia has a better team. I think Georgia wins the game, but if Michigan's defense gives Stetson Bennett problems, the Wolverines could pull off the upset.
Pick: UGA (20-14)
If those predictions hold up, Alabama and Georgia would be in an All-SEC final. I'm not going to preview the championship until I know who it's going to be. I'm looking forward to a great day of football on New Year's Eve. I hope you guys are as well!
Jake Klausner covers all things sports for ThePyrrhic.com. Keep your eyes peeled for NFL Analysis, World Series Recaps, and more from Jake. Follow him on Twitter @jake_klausner Want more football? Check this out: