CFP 2023: at a glance
The college football landscape is changing by the day. Hardcore fans knew of some of the big changes that would be coming; the wide-open transfer portal, NIL packages, conference realignments, and a new playoff format coming down the pipeline. However, the college football gods are creating changes that we didn’t see coming. For the first time in the history of the College Football Playoff, the Big Ten conference is represented with two teams, Michigan and Ohio State. We’ve seen this before, but only coming from the SEC (2022 Bama and Georgia, 2018 Bama and Georgia). The college football gods didn’t stop there; we also got a BIG 12 team in our playoff NOT named Oklahoma. But wait there’s more; for only the second time in the history of the CFP, Alabama will not participate in the four-team invitational. And to top it all off, for the first time since 2017, the Heisman winner did not lead their squad to a playoff berth. The College Football Playoff has certainly been put into a blender, and we haven’t even expanded to twelve teams yet!
Of all the well-known college football analysts, the only two that predicted a CFP with two Big Ten teams were Josh Pate of 247 Sports and Steve Deace of the Michigan Podcast. In fact, they both predicted it would be Michigan and Ohio State. How they could see so clearly into the future I’m not certain. All I know is that I wish I had the foresight to purchase their handicapping services prior to the season’s kickoff.
#1 Georgia Bulldogs vs #4 Ohio State Buckeyes
#2 Michigan Wolverines vs #3 TCU Horned Frogs
Across the college football landscape it is almost unanimously agreed upon that there are two elite teams remaining in the field. You can tell them apart from everyone else pretty easily given their records, 13-0. I know I’m hinting pretty hard but maybe this season is a perfect example of why a 12-team expansion might be a bit of a waste. That being said, I’ll eat my words if either the Buckeyes or the Horned Frogs pull off an upset in their semi-final games.
Both Michigan and Georgia are favorites in their semi-final games. Michigan by -7.5 and Georgia by -6.5. If you’ve not been locked in on Wolverines football you may find this spread as a bit of a surprise given that Blake Corum, the unanimous All-American running back will not be suited up for the big game due to a season ending surgery. However, if you’ve been following closely, you know that Donavan Edwards has had absolutely no issues picking up the slack in their last two wins over Ohio State and Purdue, rushing for 448 yards between the two games. I’d say the key for TCU in this game would be to shut down the run, which would have been a great strategy in October, however JJ McCarthy has finally come into his own, using his cannon to connect with downfield receivers throwing for 6 touchdowns in his last two games.
Turning the attention to the Bulldogs, their stars are not the ones taking the handoffs. Senior Quarterback, Stetson Bennett is the true leader of the Georgia offense. Bennett and his co-star Tight End, Brock Bowers, will be analyzed tirelessly leading up to this game. Shutting down Bowers’ production has been an almost impossible task for opposing defenses. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, their pass coverage has left a lot to be desired this season.
#1 Georgia vs #4 Ohio State
The Buckeyes lack the tools that they need to beat Georgia. CJ Stroud is going to have to be the one trick pony here. Ohio State’s running game has hit an absolute wall. I’d be surprised to see their star running backs taking many snaps. Expect to see 3-4 different running backs split reps. I’m not recommending this to the faint of heart, but tease Georgia back somewhere around -13.5 points. You’ll be biting your nails for about 10 minutes after kickoff, but it’ll be worth it.
#2 Michigan vs #3 TCU
I would’ve had a slightly different opinion on this game if TCU had toughed out their conference championship game against Kansas State. Their storyline was that they were too tough to put away, now we know they can be finished off. This can’t feel good for the Horned Frogs given that Michigan is the best second half team in the country. Michigan led Purdue 14-13 going into the locker room at halftime during the Big Ten conference championship game. I strongly encouraged everyone at my watch party to hammer the live line of Michigan -8.5 points. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, we were already celebrating our win. Michigan went on to outscore the Boilermakers 29-9 in the second half. Either tease Michigan back somewhere around -12.5 and enjoy the plus money or wait until kickoff and see if TCU scores first so that you can tease that spread even further back.