After 14 weeks of FBS college football and the usual twists and turns and upsets and near upsets, the field is set for the penultimate four team College Football Playoff. Yes, only one more season of arguing over the fourth seed before everyone can start debating over which three-loss Power 5 school deserves the 11th seed!
For 2022, Ohio State is the lucky winner. Rather in this case, they are the lucky (late season) loser as they rightly survived their recent second half meltdown vs Michigan. “Rightly survived” is relative, thanks to USC’s often terrible defense not bailing out an offense that lost superstar QB Caleb Williams’ effectiveness to a hamstring injury in the Pac 12 championship. It is reasonable to debate the fairness of USC having to play an extra game, but since that debate will go away in 2024 anyway, it is kind of a waste of time. Besides, these two can settle it on the field soon as USC moves over to the Big Ten.
Ohio State’s reward is a semifinal date with defending champ 13-0 Georgia in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. Georgia is a 6.5 point favorite over at Caesars Sportsbook. The Buckeyes are +214 on the moneyline vs -267 for Georgia.
The other half of the bracket pits #2 Michigan making their second straight trip to the playoff vs. #3 upstart TCU in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. Caesars has Michigan -7.5 and -320 on the moneyline vs +250 on the Horned Frogs. If you do not have an account, you can use a promo code at Caesars Sportsbook and get a welcome offer.
Latest Caesars National Championship Odds
Caesars also posts the following odds on each team winning the title.
● Georgia -135
● Michigan +290
● Ohio State +350
● TCU +1600
The point spreads and odds line up pretty well with Bill Connelly’s SP+ Rating System over at ESPN.
The “Rating” is a power rating, thus it suggests Georgia is 5.3 points better than Ohio State on a neutral field, while Michigan is 9 points better than TCU. Georgia gets a little bump with the game in Atlanta.
The Football Power Index, also from ESPN, is more bullish on the Buckeyes and less so on TCU.
On a side note, Nick Saban was of course right when he said that Vegas would have favored Alabama. In the 12 team playoff format, the Tide will virtually always get that shot.
Will Georgia Repeat?
2022 bettors can ignore all of that of course. Georgia has both the most talent and the best resume and only one loss in the last two seasons. They have a defense filled with future NFL players backed up by more future NFL players. Defensive Tackle Jalen Carter, Outside Linebacker Nolan Smith and Cornerback KeleeRingo all project as first round picks. The offense is very good as well, led by Quarterback Stetson Bennett, who earned a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Ohio State Gets Another Chance
He will be joined there by Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud, who may get drafted first overall. He throws to a receiving core that is still terrific despite losing superstar Jaxon Smith-Ngigba for the season. Marvin Harrison Jr. has stepped up in a huge way with 72 receptions good for 1157 yards.
The game is a classic matchup between a great offense and a very stout defense. On the other side of the ball, Georgia isn’t quite as formidable, but they still managed to light up some good teams. They put 49 points on Oregon, 48 on South Carolina, 45 on Mississippi State and 50 on LSU in the SEC championship. Ohio State ranks 15th in SP+ Defense, so the advanced stats suggest they are good. However in their most recent outing they were torched by big plays vs Michigan enroute to giving up 45 points.
Georgia could be deemed unlucky having to face Ohio State in the semis as easier rivals such as Clemson and the previously mentioned USC suffered late season losses. Still the Dawgs just out-talent everyone and feel likely to get just enough stops to handle Ohio State.
Michigan Looks To Stay Undefeated
In the other half of the bracket, it is a similar dynamic. Michigan’s fourth-rated SP+ defense will try to contain TCU’s sixth-ranked offense. TCU QB Max Duggan also received a Heisman Trophy ceremony invite, making Michigan QB JJ McCarthy the only CFP quarterback not to get the call. McCarthy might actually be better though. Plus TCU ranks just 33rd in defense, which is just fine for Big 12 play where plenty of games turn into high scoring shootouts. But that does not project well vs Michigan’s very solid offense. The Wolverines lost star running back Blake Corum to a knee injury, but they have not missed a beat with backup Donovan Edwards. At 7.5 yards per carry, Edwards actually bests Corum’s 5.9 YPC.
Is TCU This Year’s Cinderella Story?
TCU is a great story this year as they won several dramatic close games vs good competition. Michigan only faced two ranked teams all season, though they lit up both of them. Even though the Wolverines just won in Columbus, they likely prefer this matchup before a potential rematch. Just like the other semi, Itsays here that Michigan gets enough stops to hold serve and make it to the finals.
If Georgia and Michigan do meet in the Finals, it would be a rematch of last year’s semifinals. Georgia jumped out to a 27-3 first half lead and coasted to an easy 34-11 win en route to slaying their Alabama demons in the finals. But that was last year. The teams are kind of similar, with good run games and solid QB play. Georgia does not have a single runner as good as Corum or Edwards, but as a team they average 5.5 yards per carry, just a shade below Michigan’s 5.6 YPC.
In the passing game, Bennett throws for 8.7 yards per attempt, has a QB rating of 154.6 (23rd in nation) and a QBR of 86.3 (6th) while McCarthy checks in at 8.3 YPA, a 155.6 rating (20th) and a 79 QBR (16th).
Georgia will clearly come in as a favorite, but Michigan with points or at plus money feels like a worthwhile play.