NCAA CFP Semi-Final Picks

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NCAA CFP Semi-Final Games

All times Eastern

Friday, December 31

Cotton Bowl - CFP Semifinal
3:30 pm #4 Cincinnati vs. #1 Alabama (-13 1/2, 58) - Which team is going to win this game is not going to be the focus of this prediction and pick. It's a simple matter of giving 13 1/2 points to a team which has proven itself throughout the season and is the only undefeated team remaining in the college football universe.

At 13-0 the Cincinnati Bearcats are a soild pick to cover and possibly upend the SEC champion Crimson Tide. Alabama's offense is one of the best in the nation, but Cincinnati's is also quite good. Defense rate out as nearly even. While Alabama's only loss was a 41-38 upset at Texas A&M. Other than that, Alabama has blown out most of their opponents, but they did have some close calls, as does just about every team.

In September, the Tide won a close call at Florida, 31-29, just three weeks before their fateful day at A&M. LSU took them deep into the fourth quarter, but Alabama came away with a 20-14 home win. Arkansas also played them tough, dropping a 42-35 division to the home-standing Crimson Tide. The following week, Auburn took Alabama to four overtimes in an eventual 24-22 win for the eventual SEC champions. Alabama's 41-24 win over Georgia came as a shock to some, but the coaching staff figured out Georgia's hard-nosed defense and the players executed the strategy to near perfection, making the Tide 12-1 and pushing them to the top of the rankings.

The Bearcats played a limited number of games against high quality teams, but when needed, they showed up with offensive and defensive gems. Their toughest task was likely against Notre Dame, an early-season meeting on October 2nd, which Cincinnati handled with poise and power, defeating the Irish handily, 24-13. Other than that 11 point victory, the only other games in which the Bearcats were threatened were the 27-20 win at Navy, and their 28-20 victory over Tulsa. Even the AAC championship game was a semi-blowout, the Bearcats rolling past Houston, 35-20. The offense scored 30 or more points in 10 games, while the defense held their foes to 21 points or fewer 11 times. The most any team scored against Cincinnati was 28 points, when the Bearcats swamped South Florida, 45-28.

Cincinnati is a team that has earned the right to be on the field against #1 Alabama and they may be good enough to roll the Crimson Tide back.

Coin Flip: Alabama

Prediction: Bearcats 34 Crimson Tide 31



Orange Bowl - CFP Semifinal
7:30 pm #3 Georgia (-8, 45) vs. #2 Michigan - Like the Cotton Bowl, the Orange Bowl is heavily weighted in the oddsmakers' minds toward the SEC entrant, Georgia, even though Michigan received the higher ranking following championship week.

After seeing how Alabama ended Georgia's winning streak at 12, the Wolverines are probably eager to get on the field and run their offense. Michigan has improved notably on offense over the course of the regular season. Their execution is crisp. They don't make many mistakes, and they have plenty of ways to beat you, starting with their duo of dynamic running backs, Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum. When Haskins isn't plowing through the line making tough first downs, Corum is slipping to the edge where his blazing speed is dangerous. Corum was the Wolverines leading rusher is six games; Haskins was the top runner in seven contests.

Michigan also sports a pair of quarterbacks. Cade McNamara is the starter and the most reliable thrower. Michigan likes to change pace and defenses with freshman J.J. McCarthy, who is a solid thrower (27-42, 385 yards, 4 TDs) and a swift, dangerous runner (23 rushes for 100 yards and 2 TDs). McCarthy's been groomed throughout the season and relishes his role in the offense.

Georgia looked unbeatable, going 12-0 through the regular season, presenting a defense that no team could crack. They allowed 17 points or fewer in all 12 of their games up until the conference championship with Alabama. The defense recorded three shutouts and held five other opponents to seven or fewer. Other than their 41-24 loss to Alabama for the SEC title, they were unbeatable.

Offensively, the Bulldogs were not supped to be that great, but, combined with some defensive scores, they ended up as the seventh-highest scoring team in the country, averaging 39.4 points per game. By comparison, Michigan is 12th (37.7).

As good as the Georgia defense is, Michigan is right with them. The Bulldogs allowed just 9.5 points per game, tops in the country; the Wolverines allowed 16.1, checking in at #4, tied with Cincinnati.

Like Cincinnati facing Alabama, the underdog is a quality opponent, completely capable of turning in an upset performance.

Coin Flip: Georgia

Prediction: Wolverines 24 Bulldogs 20



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