Happy almost new year! While plenty of people find themselves with something called “plans” on December 31, you’re not most people. No, instead, you’d prefer to spend the final day of 2021 watching the College Football Playoff semifinal games before the calendar flips to 2022.
Are the Syracuse Orange playing in these games? Why of course not! What a silly question. We’re not doing this to watch OUR team. That would be far too stressful. Rather, we’re watching other teams and their fans get stressed about the chance to play for a national title while largely being uncommitted ourselves. It’s usually fun enough, and it’s a process you’re probably accustomed to by now (and if not, why not?).
So before things get going on Friday afternoon/evening, here’s what you need to know about both matchups.
Cotton Bowl: No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) vs. No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats (13-0), 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
The defending champs are the top seed in the playoff once again after knocking off Georgia in the SEC title game nearly a month ago. Now. ‘Bama comes up against the lone unbeaten team in the field, Cincinnati. Yes, the same Cincinnati we used to share the Big East with. They’ll be heading to the Big 12 in a few years. But that doesn’t necessarily matter for our purposes here.
Most important here for media #narrative is whether or not Cincy actually has a chance to beat Alabama — and how that reflects on their inclusion in the field to begin with. Personally, I’d wave away the latter concerns. Power conference teams have been shellacked in the CFP before, so why does it make it worse if the team to lose this time around is the Bearcats?
But on the former question, it’ll at least be intriguing to see how Cincinnati is able to hang with a very physical Alabama team stocked with future NFL talent. The Tide are pass-heavy this year behind Heisman winner Bryce Young, while the Bearcats have the second-best pass defense in the country, allowing just 168 yards per game through the air. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is top-40ish as both a rushing and passing offense, but could find some opportunities through the air against a ‘Bama defense that finished about middle of the road vs. the pass.
Orange Bowl: No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (12-1) vs. No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (12-1), 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
After week 13’s action, Georgia and Michigan would’ve been the national championship favorites, and rightfully so given their performance to-date. But since then, the Bulldogs got a bit exposed vs. Alabama in Atlanta, Michigan bludgeoned Iowa to win the Big Ten, and now there are are a lot of concern around how UGA puts the season’s only loss behind them.
For what it’s worth, they certainly have the ability to. Georgia’s the No. 2 defense in the country, is also second against the run and seventh against the pass. The line is dynamic and will disrupt what the Wolverines want to do offensively, and it’s doubtful any Michigan opponent (even Ohio State) has really looked similar up front. Michigan’s offense has been fun AND run-heavy all season, which should provide another interesting battle of strengths here.
Georgia’s offense definitely went through the motions at times this season, but overall was more than potent enough to win the SEC East. The Dawgs were No. 26 in total offensive yards per game, but not top 30 as a running or passing team. As we saw in the SEC title game, a trackmeet is unlikely to favor Georgia here, while a rock fight certainly would be to their advantage.
Leave your in-game thoughts below throughout the games, and hope everyone enjoys a safe and happy new year.