The 2022 College Football Playoff is finally here with huge matchups between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Michigan Wolverines versus the TCU Horned Frogs.
Which teams will advance? What are the best bets?
Our VSiN experts are here with their breakdowns and best wagers on each semifinal.
December 31, 4:00 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: Unlike its counterpart in the CFP Peach Bowl, the CFP Fiesta Bowl features two preseason surprises in the College Football Playoff, especially TCU, who was 200/1 this summer to win the National Championship in Sonny Dykes’ first year at the helm for the Horned Frogs. TCU ended up 8-1 in games decided by 10 points or less (the one blemish was in the Big XII title game vs. Kansas State—a three-point loss). While it is not quite Minnesota Vikings (11-0 in one-score games) fortune, TCU has gotten its fair share of breaks (facing four backup quarterbacks, etc).
On the other side, Michigan has been mostly dominant, albeit against a soft non-conference schedule. However, the Wolverines were never really challenged all season save for a two-point victory against Illinois in bad weather. Michigan has been proven to be elite all season though ranking No. 1 in scoring margin, No. 4 in ypp margin and No. 3 in ypg margin.
It’s undeniable TCU has yet to face a defense of Michigan’s caliber. The Wolverines rank third nationally in yards allowed per game (277.1), third in yards given up per play (4.5) and fifth in scoring defense (13.4 points per game). Only Ohio State and Purdue could top 400 yards of total offense against this Wolverines defense. Heisman Trophy finalist Max Duggan will have to beat the Wolverines through the air. Michigan can more than likely take away all-Big XII running back Kendre Miller as they only allow 85.2 ypg on the ground (3rd nationally) and give up just 2.9 ypc.
Despite the loss of Blake Corum and his nearly 1,500 rushing yards, Michigan is fine at running back with Donovan Edwards (7.5 ypc), who is more of a home run hitter in the backfield. Edwards leads the Power Five with four rushes of 60 or more yards.
TCU has faced plenty of potent passing offenses in the Big XII and ranks 9th nationally in opposing completion percentage (53.9%), so there may not be many opportunities down the field for JJ McCarthy. Look for Michigan to run the ball and run the ball some more and shorten the game to keep Duggan and the uptempo TCU offense off the field.
Pick: Under 58.5
Adam Burke: TCU won a lot of games in dramatic fashion and maybe even got a little fortunate to run the table to make the playoff, but this is an excellent offensive football team. The Horned Frogs were ninth in yards per pass attempt and 18th in yards per carry. They are balanced with a mobile QB that isn’t afraid to run (unlike CJ Stroud) and full of explosive play potential.
The defense also improved as the season went along. After allowing 5.8 yards per play in five October games, the Horned Frogs allowed 4.99 YPP in November and then 5.32 YPP in the Big 12 Championship Game against Kansas State. While those numbers aren’t on par with a Michigan defense that was third in yards per play allowed with 4.45, they’re still serviceable enough to be able to hang around in this game.
Michigan’s physicality is my concern for TCU, but I like the Horned Frogs offense enough to give them the benefit of the doubt that they can score and keep pace. TCU played a tough schedule and is a well-coached team with Sonny Dykes at the helm. I don’t know if they win the game, but they’ve had a flair for the dramatic and can certainly keep this one close.
Pick: TCU +7.5
December 31, 8:00 p.m. ET
Matt Youmans: The underdog role is being embraced by Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and his teammates as they prepare to face the Bulldogs, the defending national champions, in their Atlanta backyard. The Buckeyes, who had been favored in 25 consecutive games, are fortunate to be in the playoff field, and they’re playing with house money. Stroud should have success through the air. LSU’s two quarterbacks combined for 502 passing yards against Georgia in the SEC title game. Exposed as too soft defensively in their past two losses to Michigan, the Buckeyes need to prove they can contain the run.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart tends to make questionable game-management decisions. Ohio State coach Ryan Day and Stroud seem ready to take advantage of their second chance. The Buckeyes are probably the play, but wait to see if the line hits +7 again or buy the half-point from 6.5. Expect the redemption-seeking dog to put a serious scare into the Bulldogs.
Pick: Ohio State +7 (-135)
Adam Burke: Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has promised that his team will play fast and aggressively against the Bulldogs. That was also the promise going into the Michigan game, where the Buckeyes gave up explosive play after explosive play in one of the most humiliating losses in recent memory.
Ohio State backed into the College Football Playoff against the best team in the country for two years running, and this is a huge ask. We all know Ohio State is very talented at wide receivers and has good running backs, even with the rash of injuries at those two positions, but Stroud struggled down the stretch, and the Buckeyes’ offensive line isn’t up to par. I also have no faith whatsoever in Ryan Day as a play caller.
This profiles a lot like the Georgia-Tennessee game to me. The Bulldogs owned that game at the line of scrimmage, and Tennessee’s talented receivers couldn’t consistently create enough separation for Hendon Hooker. Ohio State is one of the two or three teams capable of beating Georgia, but I don’t think they do it here, and I could even see this one getting ugly. These aren’t Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes anymore.
Pick: Georgia -6.5