College Football Playoff 2021-22: Predictions, Odds, Schedule for Final 4 Teams

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIDecember 10, 2021

College Football Playoff 2021-22: Predictions, Odds, Schedule for Final 4 Teams

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Michigan hasn't won a national championship since 1997. Georgia's last national title came in 1980. And Cincinnati has never captured the top prize in college football.

    All three of those schools are in the College Football Playoff this season, giving the Wolverines and Bulldogs an opportunity to end their droughts and the Bearcats a chance to make history. But if any of them are going to do that, they will likely need to go through Alabama.

    No program has had more success in the CFP era than the Crimson Tide, who are the No. 1 seed for the second straight year and will be looking to become the first team to win back-to-back national titles since the playoff system was implemented in 2014. They will look to beat Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl, with the winner of that game advancing to play the winner of the Orange Bowl matchup between Michigan and Georgia.

    Here's everything you need to know ahead of the CFP semifinal matchups on Dec. 31.

College Football Playoff Schedule, Odds

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Saturday, Dec. 31

    Cotton Bowl: No. 1 Alabama (-13.5) vs. No. 4 Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Orange Bowl: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia (-7.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


    National Championship Odds

    Alabama: +120 (bet $100 to win $120)

    Georgia: +140

    Michigan: +700

    Cincinnati: +1600

    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

Cotton Bowl Predictions

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Alabama and Cincinnati have both had impressive seasons. The Crimson Tide are 12-1 and beat Georgia to win the SEC championship. The Bearcats are 13-0 and rolled to the AAC title. But only one of these teams can advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship.

    There's never been a Group of Five team in the CFP, so Cincinnati has already made history. And it has proved that it can beat a top team, as it handed Notre Dame its only loss this season on the road Oct. 2.

    But Alabama is going to be a way bigger test for Cincinnati. The Crimson Tide navigated a difficult SEC West schedule with only one misstep (an Oct. 9 loss at Texas A&M), and they're the only team that has defeated Georgia, which was ranked No. 1 in the country for most of the season.

    Alabama also doesn't typically lose CFP semifinal games. In six previous playoff appearances, the Crimson Tide are 5-1 in the semifinals, with their only loss coming against Ohio State in the inaugural CFP in 2014.

    "For us and the program, it's an incredible opportunity and a great measuring stick in all that we've been doing," Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said, per Keith Jenkins of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

    However, the Cotton Bowl is going to show that Alabama is on a much different level than Cincinnati.

    The Bearcats are going to have trouble trying to slow a Crimson Tide offense led by sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, the likely Heisman Trophy winner. Alabama scored 41 points in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, which had allowed only 83 total points over its first 12 games.

    As the betting line indicates, the Crimson Tide are a big favorite to win the Cotton Bowl. And they will deliver the type of performance that everybody has come to expect from them.

    Prediction: Alabama 38, Cincinnati 17

Orange Bowl Predictions

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    For much of the year, Georgia's defense looked like it was going to carry the team to an undefeated season. That's not going to happen. However, the Bulldogs were so impressive over their first 12 games that they still earned the No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoff despite losing the SEC Championship Game to Alabama.

    Georgia is going to try to bounce back by having a strong showing in the program's second CFP appearance. But if the Bulldogs are going to do that, they will need to find a way to cool off Michigan, which is heading into the playoff with a lot of momentum.

    The Wolverines have won five consecutive games, which included beating Ohio State in the regular-season finale and defeating Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. Michigan has scored at least 42 points in each of its past three games, so Georgia's defense could face a challenge in trying to stop the Wolverines.

    Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart recently said he's impressed by the Wolverines' physicality and experience.

    "I think you can always tell where a team stands and what they're all about by what they talk about, the messaging," Smart said of Michigan, per Jake Rowe of 247Sports. "To hear those guys talk after the [Big Ten title] game was really impressive. They're a senior-laden, senior-driven team that leads that way."

    But Georgia also has plenty of experienced leaders who have been big reasons for the team's success this year. And while the Bulldogs may have finally lost, they shouldn't be judged on that one performance.

    Expect the Orange Bowl to be much more competitive than the Cotton Bowl, as Michigan and Georgia should play a close game that comes down to the wire. However, when the Bulldogs need a late defensive stop in order to secure a victory, that's what they will get. They are going to prove that their first 12 games were a better indication of their defense's talent.

    Prediction: Georgia 21, Michigan 17


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