College Football Playoff Betting Odds, Predictions: Collin Wilson’s Top CFP Semifinals Picks for Friday
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: The College Football Playoff trophy.
- Friday is here, which means the College Football Playoff semifinals are finally upon us.
- Our college football expert broke down three bets for Alabama vs. Cincinnati and Michigan vs. Georgia.
- Check out all three of Collin Wilson's best bets below.
The biggest day of the college football season so far is here.
Matchups between Alabama and Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl and Michigan and Georgia in the Orange Bowl indicate that two spots in the College Football Playoff National Championship will be filled by the end of the night.
The Cotton Bowl features a Cincinnati squad that is now where no Group of Five team has been before. The matchup against Nick Saban and mighty Alabama represents a chance to continue its Cinderella story.
The Michigan vs. Georgia Orange Bowl is expected to be the closest of the two matchups, according to oddsmakers, as Georgia finds itself looking to bounce back after an SEC Championship loss, while Michigan is still flying high after capturing a Big Ten title.
I broke down both games below and shared my top bets for each. and don’t forget to follow me in the Action App to see any other bets I make ahead of Friday’s New Year’s Eve kickoffs.
Collin Wilson’s College Football Playoff Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Cincinnati vs. Alabama
The Group of Five will make its first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff when the Cotton Bowl kicks off from AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Friday afternoon.
Cincinnati ran through a nonconference schedule that included Notre Dame and Indiana before sweeping conference play. After a few midseason non-covers against the likes of Navy and Tulsa, the Bearcats listed in the futures market at +500 to make the playoff.
With only two Power Five champions having a single loss, head coach Luke Fickell will represent all of the former Group of Five teams that never had a chance to win a national title.
Alabama will play in its sixth College Football Playoff since 2015, as every semifinal produced a victory and National Championship berth. The Crimson Tide have been dominant in semifinal games with a month of rest, outscoring opponents, 161-61, collectively through six games.
Nick Saban is the all-time winningest coach from a National Championship perspective, but his six titles in Tuscaloosa tie Bear Bryant for the all-time Alabama record.
Defense is the biggest reason for the Bearcats reaching to the semifinals.
The secondary is populated with plenty of names that will play in the NFL, as Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant have been two of the highest-graded lockdown cornerbacks in college football.
Roaming the middle has been safety Bryan Cook, graded out as the highest individual coverage defender in the nation.
The Bearcats posted top-10 ranks in coverage, tackling and Finishing Drives against a schedule of offenses light on Success Rate and explosiveness.
If Gardner and Bryant can keep up with Jameson Williams’ double moves, the corners may limit where Alabama can spread the ball in passing downs.
Desmond Ridder is looking to close his college career on a winning note after vast improvements in ball security this season. Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock has adapted the Bearcats’ 11 and 12 formations into a mixture of heavy rush with Jerome Ford and play-action passing in standard downs.
Cincinnati has been one of the most successful offenses in the nation in early downs with a rank of 10th in Success Rate.
DESMOND RIDDER FROZEN ROPE#CFB
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 4, 2021
Passing Downs are where the Cincinnati offenses has struggled, dropping to 83rd in Success Rate and 104th in explosiveness.
When Cincinnati has sustained drives into opponent territory, the Bearcats have been excellent at avoiding field goals. Cincinnati has scored on 48 red-zone attempts this season with 42 by way of touchdown.
If the chains move on offense and the defensive secondary can make Alabama one-dimensional, there is a shot for Cincinnati to play for the national title.
The Crimson Tide had a miraculous turnaround in the SEC Championship game. Alabama failed to cover Arkansas, Auburn and LSU in the month of November leading up to the conference title game against Georgia.
Bryce Young then threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns against the Bulldogs thanks to the protection of a modified offensive line.
Chris Owens was moved from center to right tackle, while Seth McLaughlin took over duties at center and played a steady 73 snaps with just 117 previous snaps of experience.
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 22, 2021
The Alabama passing attack will be limited with the loss of John Metchie III. His 128 targets led the team, as offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien commented that Ja’Corey Brooks and JoJo Earle would get the lion’s share of the duties.
Brooks and Earle combined for just 17 receptions from Young this season, which sends the entire offensive game plan to the back of fifth-year senior running back Brian Robinson Jr.
Pete Golding turned in another stellar season as defensive coordinator for Alabama. the Tide ranked top-15 in numerous categories, including Line Yards, Stuff Rate, tackling and Havoc.
Jordan Battle and Jalyn Armour-Davis are two of the highest-graded secondary players in the nation, while Christopher Allen is a top-20 linebacker in FBS from a coverage standpoint.
Edge rusher Will Anderson recorded an astronomical 73 pressures this season and is surely out to prove he was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Cincinnati vs. Alabama Betting Pick
For Cincinnati to make the National Championship game, stopping the rush from Alabama is the top priority. The Crimson Tide have allowed Robinson to rush for over 30 attempts in numerous games against defensive fronts that were weak against the ground game.
The Bearcats posted a Defensive Stuff Rate rank of 35th in the nation, allowing four yards per carry on opponent rushing attempts. Successful rushing attacks have converted third Downs and scoring opportunities against Cincinnati this season, as the Bearcats allowed 4% more than the national average in opponent methodical drive rate.
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 2, 2021
Young may not have many passing downs attempts in this game if an undersized Cincinnati defensive line is not able to stop the rush.
The game plan is clear for Alabama: Run the ball as often as possible and avoid throwing against three NFL defensive backs.
For the Cincinnati offense to keep pace with Alabama, all efforts must be made to protect the ball. Ridder led an offense that ranked 12th in Havoc allowed, but pressure in passing downs is where the most mistakes have been made.
Ridder sees an adjusted completion percentage drop of 21% from a clean pocket to a pressured one. The biggest plays from the Cincinnati offense have come in standard downs off of play-action, as Ridder has posted eight big-time throws to just one turnover-worthy play.
The Action Network projection is Alabama -12.5, indicating value on Cincinnati.
So much of the Bearcats’ chances to upset the Tide ride on Young testing the Cincinnati secondary and Ridder having successful early downs. At +14, the Bearcats will have plenty of value if game day steam arrives on the Tide.
With a projected path that includes the Alabama offense lining up in two-tight end sets and running Brian Robinson over 30 times, this game could be a grinder. Expect Alabama to sit on any double-digit leads and leave passing game off film for the national title game.
Pick: Under 57 or Better
Georgia vs. Michigan
Jim Harbaugh has exorcised the demons of Big Ten play to place Michigan in its first-ever College Football Playoff against Georgia.
The Wolverines overcame a midseason loss to Michigan State with a sweep of the remaining schedule and a blowout of Iowa in the conference championship.
Led by outstanding trench play on both sides of the ball, Michigan must beat the best defense in college football to advance and compete for the program’s first national title since 1997.
Kirby Smart has returned to the playoff after taking an overtime loss to Alabama in the National Championship game four years ago. The Bulldogs continue to take inventory on blue-chip defensive players and has yet to find another gear on offense.
The lack of offense showed in the opening victory with no offensive touchdowns against Clemson and again in the SEC Championship loss to the Crimson Tide.
For Georgia to advance through the semifinal, containing two of the best defensive linemen in college football is paramount.
Labeled as the best defense in college football, the Bulldogs gave up 41 points to Alabama. The Crimson Tide ran for a modest 4.4 yards per rush and logged 421 yards through the air.
The good news for the Georgia defense is that the Heisman Trophy winner does not play quarterback for Michigan.
When taking on the Wolverines, the handicap comes around the rush defense. Georgia has eight individual defensive players listed in the top 200 of all FBS in rush grading, per PFF.
As a former center, have to admit…
This Jordan Davis rep is just not fair. pic.twitter.com/yzhEZOPGDR
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 19, 2021
The offense will remain a mystery leading up to kickoff. Stetson Bennett has been the starter most of the season as JT Daniels has dealt with injury and COVID-19.
The biggest difference between the two quarterbacks may be mobility, as offensive coordinator Todd Monken has called designed run for Bennett in numerous games this season.
Because of the opponent, this could be a heavy-run game for the Georgia offense.
The Bulldogs have five running backs with at least 45 rushing attempts this season, as each individual player has posted better than three yards after contact.
That spells bad news for a Michigan defense that has poor ranks in Stuff Rate and Opportunity Rate. If Georgia is able to stay out of long down and distances, the damage from a fierce Wolverines pass rush will be avoided.
The “champions of the West” posted a conference championship season with a bruising rushing attack, excellent ball security, best-in-nation defensive line play and a highly-graded secondary.
Opposing offenses were limited in explosive drives, as only 12 of their 159 drives averaged 10 yards per play.
The Michigan defense ranked top-10 in tackling, pass rush and Finishing Drives. Opponents that cross the 40-yard line average just three points per trip.
The issues for the Wolverines defense come against the rush in standard downs. In the only loss on the schedule, Michigan State averaged 8.1 yards in standard downs and 6.7 yards per rushing attempt. Those numbers led to numerous scoring opportunities in which the Spartans averaged 4.8 points per attempt.
For the defense to sizzle in applying pressure in passing downs, Michigan must have a better effort against the Georgia ground attack than it did in East Lansing earlier this season.
Alabama defeated Georgia by slicing up the secondary, an element that may not be available to the Michigan offense. The Wolverines are a heavy-run offense led by Blake Corum, Hassan Haskins and the emerging Donovan Edwards.
🤩 @UMichFootball can't stop scoring! 😅
Donovan Edwards for 77 yards ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/B1T0ekWekF
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 20, 2021
Michigan is not expected to change a run-heavy attack that uses plenty of motion, pulling offensive linemen and sweeps from outside targets.
This same offense averaged just 2.6 yards per carry against Wisconsin earlier this season. Although Michigan won the game comfortably, three turnovers by the Badgers masked issues the Wolverines had on the ground.
Expect offensive coordinator Josh Gattis to mix pistol, shotgun, motion and no huddle with Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy under center in an attempt to get Georgia off-balance.
Georgia vs. Michigan Betting Pick
Georgia falls into the biggest buy-low, sell-high scenario of any bowl team.
The Bulldogs were dominated by Alabama after blitzing through the regular season undefeated. Michigan beat Ohio State for the first time in the Harbaugh era, followed by a conference championship that sent the Wolverines up to the second overall seed.
Sportsbooks have seen heavy action on Michigan, moving an opener of 9 closer to a touchdown spread.
With defensive coordinator Dan Lanning taking the head coaching job at Oregon, there is question about the focus of the defense. Whether or not the defensive staff is focused on the game, the Bulldogs defense has been one of the best in the nation against inside zone run, which is the cornerstone play of the Michigan offense.
Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt have overpowered offensive rush attacks all season, as all indications are there that Michigan must execute in passing downs to advance.
While the Georgia defense looks to rebound from the SEC Championship, the Bulldogs offense will work to stay in standard downs and take advantage of the Wolverines rush defense. Michigan has struggled defensively against the play-action pass all season, another area Georgia is set to attack in passing downs.
The Action Network projection has the Bulldogs -8 with a total at 53.
If Monken goes uptempo in the rushing attack to avoid defensive substitutions, the Bulldogs will score enough to cover the closing spread.
As Michigan looks to find holes through the ground, Alabama exposed the Georgia secondary. Expect Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy to execute enough explosive plays to go over the total.