Will Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide repeat as national champions?
In a season that has been as unpredictable as ever, the only thing one should expect is the unexpected. This year's National Championship semifinals may prove to be one of the most compelling ever. For both Michigan and Cincinnati, this marks their first ever National Championship semi-finals appearance. In contrast, both Georgia and Alabama are returnees, looking to remind the masses that the SEC is the predominant conference in college football. In essence, these games have the potential to change the landscape of the College Football Playoffs. A change that, in many ways, is long overdue.
Orange Bowl: Michigan vs. Georgia
This is the classic matchup between one of the best ground offences in the nation and a defensive unit that was historically great this season. For Michigan, their key to victory will be their run attack led by running backs Hassan Haskins and a fully-recovered Blake Corum. For them to have success on the ground, they will have the daunting task of trying to win in the trenches against the nation's top defensive front, led by Chuck Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy winner, Jordan Davis. Even if they find a way to neutralize Davis, they will still have to deal with All-American linebacker Nakobe Davis, defensive lineman Travon Walker, and defensive tackle Jalen Carter.
On the other hand, Georgia's offense will have their hands full with this year's Lombardi Award and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Aidan Hutchinson. The player, however, that should not be ignored is his partner, edge rusher David Ojabo, who quietly put together a solid season with 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. It is no secret that Georgia has struggled with consistency on offense. If they look to be successful, their quarterback, Stetson Bennett, needs to be at his very best.
Score Prediction: Michigan 25, Georgia 30.
Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Cincinnati
Make no mistake about it, Cincinnati is a dangerous team. In making their first ever playoff appearance, this is a team going in with a "nothing-to-lose" mentality, which should make for a competitive game against Alabama.
When you think of Cincinnati, the first person that comes to mind is dual-threat quarterback Desmond Ridder, who finished the regular season with 3,190 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. Yet, Cincinnati has a talent-rich group on offense that includes standout running back Jerome Ford and talented receiver Alec Pierce. On defense, there are few defenders as proficient as cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, a player that could very well be a top ten pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. In addition to Gardner is defensive lineman Curtis Brooks and linebacker Joel Dublanko, both of whom should contribute significantly.
With all this noted, few teams have been able to shut down Alabama's offense, including the Georgia Bulldogs' No. 1 ranked defense Cincinnati's defense will likely never face a quarterback of Bryce Young's caliber. This year's Heisman Trophy winner helped his unit finish 4th in the nation in points per game (42.5). Young himself finished 4th in the nation in passing yards (4,322) and 2nd in passing touchdowns (43) with only four interceptions. By his side is All-American receiver Jameson Williams, the most electrifying player in college football. As Georgia found out in the SEC Conference title game, containing him is a tall task. Though they will be without John Metchie III, who sustained a season-ending knee injury against Georgia, Alabama has plenty of reliable options in receiver Slade Bolden and tight ends Cameron Latu and Jahleel Billingsley. What will be important for Alabama is establishing the run with running back Brian Robinson Jr.
This may shape up to be one of those games that will come down to the last possession. The question is, which team will do enough to come out on top?
Score Prediction: Alabama 35, Cincinnati 30