VSiN’s college football expert dives into his top betting angles for Friday’s two CFP semifinal games.
Orange Bowl: Georgia (-7.5, 45.5) vs. Michigan
Let’s begin with the greatest variable in any sporting event or bowl game at the moment: COVID-19 protocols.
The buzz out of Athens is Georgia has been dealing with COVID issues. How widespread these issues are remains to be seen, although we do know that backup QB JT Daniels was dealing with the virus. His availability (or lack of) is a big deal.
It was also reported that star wideout George Pickens, who missed most of the season due to injury, also has tested positive. The latest word is he’s expected to play, but trying to get COVID information will be an enormous challenge up until the two teams take the field.
Outside of that, I am curious how Georgia will respond to being punched in the mouth for the first time all year. The Bulldogs’ defense was on a historic pace before playing in the SEC championship game.
In fact, before that game they had not allowed more than 17 points in a single game. Against Alabama, the Bulldogs allowed 41 points. Oof.
I expect the Bulldogs’ defense to respond. I do wonder how Stetson Bennett IV will play at quarterback after such a lackluster performance last time out. Georgia closed as a 6.5-point favorite against Alabama in the SEC title game, and one could trace the origins of the meltdown back to Bennett’s turnovers and inability to sustain long drives. Granted, the defense wasn’t great. But Bennett looked shaken.
In terms of momentum, Michigan has almost all of it. After beating Ohio State as 6.5-point underdogs, the Wolverines crushed Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten championship game to easily cover the 12.5-point spread.
Georgia’s defense might be the better overall unit, but Michigan has the best player in this game. DE Aidan Hutchinson is poised to be one of the first players selected in the upcoming draft, and he will certainly be a factor.
The question, at least for me, is on offense. Can Michigan generate enough big plays? Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has done a brilliant job getting all of the pieces to mesh nicely, headlined by the development of quarterback Cade McNamara.
This will be the toughest challenge yet, although watching this superb group of running backs try to run through Georgia’s defense will be a wonderful thing.
I’ve said it throughout the year, but I’m already sitting on plenty of Georgia futures tickets. That said, this feels like a game that could be tight until the very end. Points are awfully tempting.
Cotton Bowl: Alabama (-13.5, 57.5) vs. Cincinnati
It’s hard to muster up a comparison to the performances Alabama delivered in back-to-back weeks to end the regular season. The Crimson Tide needed four overtimes to beat Auburn as 20.5-point favorites, looking inept on offense and completely overwhelmed across the offensive line.
In the SEC championship game, however, Nick Saban’s team delivered a pristine, balanced performance against Georgia. QB Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy by torching a defense we didn’t think could be torched. And the defense, which has been up and down, had many questioning whether Bennett is the right guy at quarterback for the Bulldogs.
Cincinnati knows this Jekyll and Hyde routine. The Bearcats had a four-game stretch during the meat of the season that was largely unimpressive. During that time, Cincinnati struggled against Navy, Tulane, Tulsa and South Florida.
In the three games to close out the season, the Bearcats bounced back with wins (and covers) over SMU, East Carolina and Houston. It wasn’t always dominant, but it was certainly much improved from what we saw previously.
While Cincinnati has taken on the role of the “little guy” as a result of playing in a Group of Five conference (for now), there are more than a handful of starters that fit the Alabama mold. I’m specifically excited to watch their cornerbacks, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Coby Bryant, match up against Alabama’s receivers. Both have NFL futures.
On that note, the loss of John Metchie III, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the SEC championship game, is a major blow to Alabama. We know Jameson Williams is a special wideout — and he was against Georgia. But this loss is one of the bigger storylines entering this game.
Cincinnati has some “dudes” outside of the corners. QB Desmond Ridder has been largely excellent, and I love how Jerome Ford runs the ball. But I worry about the depth and just what counter Cincinnati can offer if Young plays his typical game and the Alabama offensive line holds up once again.
The Bearcats are a heck of a story, and are getting a lot of points. They have plenty of NFL players on the roster. But the difference in talent across the depth chart simply might be too much to overcome.