The college football season has had some unique twists and turns this year, resulting in one of the most surprising playoffs in recent memory. While Alabama is the familiar face every fan knows, Georgia, Michigan, and Cincinnati are all relative surprises.
Which teams win the two semifinal matchups? This is a breakdown of not only who wins, but also a look at some over/under bets that seem intriguing.
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(Cotton Bowl) Alabama vs. Cincinnati
Alabama’s win in the SEC championship game propelled them to the top seed in the College Football Playoff. They face an undefeated Cincinnati club looking to justify their spot in the playoff that has been dominated by more prestigious programs from Power 5 Conferences. Can the Bearcats
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If the point spread indicates anything, it shows oddsmakers and the betting public don’t have a lot of faith in them being strong in their playoff debut. It doesn’t help that they are going up against an Alabama team that looks like the prohibitive favorites to win the National Championship. They’re strong on both sides of the ball, and this is a team Cincinnati simply hasn’t faced all year. Although they have a few good wins, most notably against Notre Dame, Alabama takes it to another level.
The defense will look to lock Cincinnati down from the very beginning. It starts with Willie Anderson, the newly named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. They have a chance to push Cincinnati around and cause a lot of trouble for them from the very beginning. Desmond Ridder and the offense will have to score early on to gain any type of confidence. Otherwise, Alabama‘s experience as a team that plays in the football playoffs seemingly every year will start to show.
For Cincinnati, the key to victory will be putting some pressure on Bryce Young that could sway the game. They have two of the best cornerbacks in the game, and if they can get a turnover or two early on, this could be an upset in the making. Expect Alabama to come in with a smart game plan so that they can avoid those stars and exploit other parts of the defense. Nick Saban has had a lot of time to plan for this one, so he will have the opportunity to find the weak links and go from there.
It could be a fairly close first half, but Alabama pulls away simply because they have too much talent and too much depth. This will specifically show on Cincinnati’s offensive line. Once they start to wear down, Alabama starts pouring it on. The relentless attack for four quarters is just too much to handle.
As great a story as it would be for Cincinnati to pull off a monumental upset, it just doesn’t seem possible. Now, will they cover? Alabama seems like they are ready to make a statement despite being the number one seed. They’ve carried this thought process that they have overlooked all year long thanks to the early-season loss. Maybe this isn’t the most dominating Alabama team in recent memory, but no one is looking at them as an underdog in this one. They put it on Cincinnati and win by a comfortable margin of two touchdowns or more. Expect them to have a closer matchup in the championship game, regardless of who they end up facing.
Pick: Alabama -13.5
(Sugar Bowl) Georgia vs. Michigan
The SEC is dominating as far as odds are concerned going into the college football playoff. Not only is Alabama a large favorite over Cincinnati, but Georgia is getting a lot of respect as more than a touchdown favorite over Michigan. Will it be an all-SEC final in the end?
It seems like the spread should be a little closer given how the two teams have played in recent memory. Michigan’s offense is better than a lot of people are giving them credit for, so they are going to give Georgia’s defense plenty of challenges. The Bulldogs have been sensational for most of the year, but Alabama showed that there were a few holes in that defense. Michigan won’t have to score a ton since they have a good defense of their own, but they need to step it up at the most important times and not let opportunities slip away.
Michigan’s conservative offensive approach will open up from time to time for a few big plays. If John Harbaugh can find some opportunities, he’ll take a chance. He knows that they are the underdog going into this game, so pulling off a few tricks could change things up. Georgia isn’t too much different than Ohio State, and Michigan was able to come out with a distinct game plan and ride that wave to an upset victory.
With all that being said, Georgia is the better team on paper. They have a better roster full of players up front on both sides of the ball that will put pressure on Michigan for all four quarters. Michigan will need to play error-free if they are going to actually pull off the win.
Georgia should be coming in with plenty of motivation as they fight for what should be a rematch against Alabama in the championship. They would love to have a second chance at avenging their loss in the SEC Championship game. After being the best team in the country for three months, that loss was tough to handle.
The Bulldogs win the game, but Michigan puts up a huge fight that goes down to the end. They are the pick when looking at the spread, as it should turn out to be a pretty competitive game overall. Not everyone will be thrilled that the championship game ends up being a rematch from a few weeks ago, but Georgia and Alabama prove that they are the two best teams in the nation by the end of the night.
Pick: Michigan +7.5
Are there any intriguing prop or over/under bets for the College Football Playoff semifinals?
With the two marquee games going on, are there any prop or over/under bets worth putting money on? While there aren’t as many prop bets out there as there would be for the Super Bowl or even the championship game in college football, a few of them look pretty intriguing. Stay away from a lot of the prop bets involving players, and look at a couple of over opportunities.
Alabama: Over 35.5 total points
The prediction has already been made that Alabama will beat Cincinnati. They’ll do so in impressive fashion, having a bit of an offensive explosion to make a statement. Cincinnati has a solid defense, but the depth isn’t there. It might not look like Alabama will cover this bet in the beginning, but they start to cruise in the second half. It would not be surprising at all to see them score 40 or more points by the end of the day.
Michigan: Over 18.5 points
The lack of respect Michigan’s receiving in regards to their offense has put this over/under pretty low. Georgia, without question, has a defense that will give Michigan problems, but they’ll score at least three touchdowns by the end of the day. They’re too talented not to.
Chances are Michigan will be trailing at some point in the game, so they’ll be forced to air the ball out and take some chances to score. It seems like predictions are showing this will be a lower scoring game in general, but Michigan’s offense pulls through and gets up to 20+ points.