College Football Playoff 2021-22: Odds, Schedule and Predictions for Semifinals

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIDecember 24, 2021

College Football Playoff 2021-22: Odds, Schedule and Predictions for Semifinals

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    On December 31, the four College Football Playoff semifinalists will be in action. Only two of those schools will be victorious and move on to the CFP National Championship Game, which is set for January 10.

    Alabama will face Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl, then Michigan will take on Georgia in the Orange Bowl. The winners will then go head-to-head for the national title. The Crimson Tide enter as the front-runners, as they're the No. 1 seed and the defending national champions.

    The Bulldogs have only one previous CFP appearance (the 2017 season), and they lost to the Tide in the national title game that year. The Wolverines and Bearcats are making their Playoff debuts this season.

    Here's everything else you need to know heading into the College Football Playoff, along with predictions for both semifinal matchups.

College Football Playoff Schedule, Odds

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Friday, December 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

    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Cotton Bowl Prediction

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Alabama is 12-1 and became the only team to beat Georgia so far this season when it won the SEC Championship Game. So no matter who the Crimson Tide's CFP semifinal opponent was, it was probable that they were going to be the favorite to win, likely by a wide margin.

    As it turned out, Alabama, which has more CFP experience than any other program in the country, will be facing the first Group of Five team to make it to the Playoff. Cincinnati is not only making its CFP debut, but it's doing so in historic fashion.

    These two schools couldn't be much more different in that regard. And you can be sure that Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban is likely going to have his team ready to play and to know what to expect.

    So although the Bearcats have had a strong season and have yet to lose a game, winning each of their first 13 games, this is going to be where their season ends. Because even though Cincinnati has some quality wins (such as a road victory at Notre Dame), a matchup against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl is about as difficult of a CFP draw that a team can get.

    The Crimson Tide may not be undefeated, and they may have faced a little more adversity than they're used to during the regular season. But this is a loaded team led by the Heisman Trophy winner (sophomore quarterback Bryce Young), and it's going to become apparent early that this CFP semifinal is a mismatch.

    Cincinnati's defense has played well this season. It also hasn't gone up against Alabama. And even though the Crimson Tide will be without wide receiver John Metchie III, there are plenty of other playmakers on their offense who can step up and make some big plays.

    Expect Alabama to jump out in front early, putting the pressure on Cincinnati to try to keep up. That won't happen, and the Crimson Tide will cruise to yet another Playoff victory.

    Prediction: Alabama 38, Cincinnati 17

Orange Bowl Prediction

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Georgia's defense didn't fare well in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama. But that was just one matchup. It can't be forgotten how dominant the Bulldogs were over their first 12 games (all wins) as they now prepare to try to bounce back in the College Football Playoff.

    Michigan is a strong team, and it's proved that with its impressive finish to the regular season. The Wolverines played a challenging Big Ten schedule, which culminated with them winning five straight games to get into the Playoff, including a victory over Ohio State and a win over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game.

    But it's going to be interesting to see how Michigan's offense stacks up against Georgia's defense. Can the Wolverines have the same success that Alabama did, or will the Bulldogs shut them down the way they have the majority of their 2021 opponents?

    This is going to be the more competitive game of the two CFP semifinal matchups. And although Georgia is going into the contest as a 7.5-point favorite, don't be surprised if the margin of victory is less than that.

    Although Michigan is going to play a competitive game in what should be a low-scoring matchup, Georgia is going to prevail by getting just enough offense to support its defense, which will make a late stand to hold off the Wolverines by a close margin.

    The Bulldogs are allowing only 9.5 points and 254.8 total yards per game, and both those numbers would be even lower if Alabama hadn't put up huge stats in the SEC Championship Game. It's going to take Michigan a while to figure out how to generate any offense against Georgia, and it will be too late for it to come from behind once it does.

    Georgia will win the Orange Bowl, then get its opportunity for revenge against Alabama in the CFP National Championship Game, which will be a highly anticipated matchup.

    Prediction: Georgia 21, Michigan 17


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