After a long wait, the day is upon us! The Michigan Wolverines will take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday for their first game in what feels like an eternity. Anticipation is mounting for the Wolverines’ first appearance in the College Football Playoff. Let’s dig into this game and the other top games to watch on New Year’s.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats
- Date & Time: Friday, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Bowl: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
- Channel: ESPN
- Location: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
- Weather: 73 degrees and cloudy
- Betting Line: ALA -13.5 O/U: 57 (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
We’ll kick off the College Football Playoff with the top-seeded and highly favored Alabama Crimson Tide against the Cincinnati Bearcats. This game will feature two of the premier defenses and quarterbacks in college football. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young will take on Desmond Ritter, a potential future Day 1 quarterback in the NFL Draft. Both defenses conceded about 305 yards per game this season.
Luke Fickell was the assistant coach in some rather big moments for the Ohio State Buckeyes including a National Championship in 2002. He’s been in the big moments before and has seen consistent success now that he has taken over to run his own program at Cincinnati. They’ve gone 23-4 over the last three seasons with just a three-point loss to Georgia last season in the Peach Bowl. Since then, they have gone undefeated and rolled through a solid American Athletic Conference with a win over Notre Dame on the road to get them here.
But Alabama and Nick Saban are no prisoners to this moment. They have been in six of the seven College Football Playoffs and have won three of them while making it to the National Championship Game four times. The No. 1 seed has won the National Championship in each of the last two seasons and the Crimson Tide and the odds from DraftKings Sportsbook are making it seem like that will be likely again. They are +120 to win the National Championship, the best odds of the group. Cincinnati is +1600, by far the worst of the four teams. Expectations by seemingly everyone is an easy win for the Crimson Tide.
No. 2 Michigan Wolverines vs No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs
- Date & Time: Friday, Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Bowl: Capital One Orange Bowl
- Channel: ESPN
- Location: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida
- Weather: 74 degrees and clear
- Betting Line: UGA -7.5 O/U: 45 (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
The No. 2 seed is 4-3 in this matchup all-time and the No. 2 seed has won the championship three out of the seven years of the College Football Playoff, more than any other seed.
The SEC is also having a rather poor start to Bowl games this year going 0-4, with each loss coming to a Group of 5 opponent. With that being said, Georgia played three of those opponents and dominated them by a combined 111-23 margin. While that is certainly an impressive mark, it may not look as good now that we have made it through some bowls.
Georgia was considered the best team in the country for the majority of the season because of the hysterical numbers they put up against SEC opponents not named Alabama. They went through the regular season unscathed and outscored their conference counterparts by 256 points. Dominant defensive play was the reason for this as Tennessee scored the most points against them in the regular season with 17 in a blowout loss.
Still, they ran into the Crimson Tide and lost in the SEC Championship Game like so many great SEC teams do after a solid regular season. The loss was the first one of the year and it has been lingering for three weeks. How will this team respond with an opportunity to get a rematch in the National Championship Game?
On the other hand, Michigan is riding high right now and basking in the glory of its first win over Ohio State, first Big Ten Championship and first College Football Playoff appearance in the Jim Harbaugh era. Before a three-week break, the Wolverines were playing their best football of the season and putting it on opponents.
Both teams have done things in a similar way: relying on a stout defense with the focus on a defensive line chock full of future NFL starters. On the offensive end, running the football and not turning the ball over has caused these teams to devastate opponents with clock management, but neither has true superstar quarterbacks that we typically see in these matchups.
Yet, Georgia is heavily favored. DraftKings Sportsbook has them as 7.5-point favorites just over 24 hours away from kickoff. Confidence is rather low from a national standpoint for the Wolverines in this one, but it sure is high from the players and coaches. They’ll have to take this underdog mentality into the game and use it as fuel to beat a physically imposing and talented Georgia squad this weekend, which they are certainly capable of accomplishing.
No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes vs No. 11 Utah Utes
- Date & Time: Saturday, Jan. 1, 5:00 p.m. ET
- Bowl: Rose Bowl
- Channel: ESPN
- Location: Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California
- Weather: 59 degrees and clear
- Betting Line: OSU -4 O/U: 64 (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
This game will be a fun one to watch as we will see more of the future of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Two of the top three receivers for OSU (Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave) have opted out of the Rose Bowl (imagine saying that 10-15 years ago...) to pursue their NFL journeys. Two other starters will also not be on the field for the Buckeyes that we know of.
CJ Stroud had an unbelievable freshman season that earned him a trip to New York and an opportunity at the Heisman Trophy, but how much of that was because of the three receivers he had with him?
We’ll find out against a Utah squad that surged late in this season. The Utes topped Oregon (a team that beat Ohio State) twice in the last three weeks of the season on their way to a PAC-12 Championship. They went 9-1 in their final 10 games, just like the Buckeyes, and have the opportunity to win their first Rose Bowl ever.
Utah will have a lot to play for while it may be very little for the other side that likely expected to find themselves in the College Football Playoff. This should be a really interesting contest.