The main event of college football’s bowl season is nearly here. The New Year’s Six slate is loaded with high-profile matchups, including this year’s pair of College Football Playoff semifinals. Below you’ll find a look at all six games with betting information and edges for each team.
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Fiesta Bowl: TCU (12-1, 9-3-1) vs. Michigan (13-0, 8-4-1)
Moneyline: TCU +245, Michigan -310
Spread: Michigan -7.5
Michigan is back in the College Football Playoff for a second straight season. The Wolverines will look to avenge last year’s poor performance in which they were bounced in the semis by Georgia in blowout fashion, 34-11. A win against TCU would either set up a rematch against the Bulldogs or a second bout against their hated rival Ohio State.
Many thought Alabama deserved to get in over TCU after the Horned Frogs lost to Kansas State in the Big-12 Championship Game on Saturday. As far as I’m concerned, the committee got it right. TCU lost a heartbreaker in overtime with its offense getting stuffed at the goal line to open OT. That all came after Max Duggan led a heroic touchdown drive at the end of regulation that included a game-tying two-point conversion. Duggan had 110 rushing yards on the day and a touchdown, most of which (including the score) came on that final drive.
Michigan unsurprisingly steamrolled Purdue in the Big-10 Championship Game. Its defense has allowed just nine points in the second half over the last two games. The Wolverines will be without star running back Blake Colum for the remainder of the season, but it hasn’t mattered much in the two games he’s missed. Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards against Purdue and 216 yards against Ohio State.
There’s no obvious edge for Michigan despite being nearly a double-digit favorite. That comes mostly from respect for the Big-10 compared to the Big-12. TCU ranks sixth in points scored and 16th in total yards allowed with enough firepower to give the Wolverines defense some problems. Defensively the Horned Frogs could struggle to stop Edwards and Michigan’s sixth-ranked rushing attack. TCU’s defense ranks 63rd in rushing yards allowed.
Maybe the move here is to take TCU in the first half and avoid what seems to be the trend of Michigan steamrolling its opponent in the second half. Either way this could be a more intriguing game than the spread indicates.
Peach Bowl: Ohio State (11-1, 5-6-1) vs. Georgia (13-0, 7-6)
Moneyline: Ohio State +220, Georgia -275
Spread: Georgia -6.5
Ohio State needed help from Utah in order to get back into the College Football Playoff. The Utes beat USC on Friday in the Pac-12 Championship Game to bump the Trojans out of the field of four and opening a spot for the Buckeyes.
The last time we saw Ohio State, though, the Buckeyes were getting embarrassed at home by Michigan. The Wolverines won that game 45-23 and Ohio State was limited to just three second half points. It was an ugly showing that makes it difficult to rationalize the Buckeyes being competitive against Georgia in the CFP semifinals.
Georgia has been the top team in college football all season long, and although the Bulldogs have six losses ATS, they’ve rarely been challenged all year. Georgia is coming off a dominant 50-30 win over LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
This game features Ohio State’s second-ranked scoring offense vs. Georgia’s second-ranked scoring defense. The Buckeyes have the 13th-ranked scoring defense and will try to stop the Bulldogs 11th-ranked scoring offense.
On paper, there’s nothing to suggest that Georgia is the vastly superior team and both sides have rosters full of NFL prospects. We are well aware by now that the SEC is by far the top conference in the nation, and the defending champs mowed through it with relative ease this season.
It’s hard to rewatch Georgia trouncing LSU and Ohio State getting embarrassed by Michigan and walk away thinking the Buckeyes have a chance in this one, but that’s why they play the game.
Rose Bowl: Penn State (10-2, 9-3 ATS) vs. Utah (10-3, 8-5 ATS)
Moneyline: Penn State +115, Utah -135
Spread: Utah -2.5
The Utes played admirably a year ago and even jumped out to a 14-0 lead over Ohio State before ultimately falling to the Buckeyes, 48-45. Utah was a four-point underdog in that game, and now finds itself as the favorite this time around.
Utah dominated USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, 47-24, while outscoring the Trojans 30-7 in the second half. The Utes are 4-1 ATS in their last five games.
Penn State has been red hot ATS as well and a perfect 6-0 to end the season. The Nittany Lions were a double-digit favorite in each of their last five games and covered on each occasion. Penn State’s two losses came to Ohio State (44-31) and Michigan (41-17).
Comparatively, two of Utah’s three losses against Oregon and Florida were by three points or less. Utah’s only double-digit loss came on the road against UCLA (42-32).
Penn State’s offense ranks 19th in scoring and will go against Utah’s 24th-ranked scoring defense. And Utah’s eighth-ranked scoring offense will match up with Penn State’s scoring defense.
There isn’t a major edge for either team offensively or defensively. In fact, this is about as evenly matched game as you’ll find, which means much of your bet will be based on which conference you have more faith in. For what it’s worth, Utah’s pair of wins over USC are more impressive than anything on Penn State’s resume.
Orange Bowl: Tennessee (10-2, 9-3 ATS) vs. Clemson (11-2, 7-6 ATS)
Moneyline: Tennessee +175, Clemson -215
Spread: Clemson -5.5
This matchup loses much of its intrigue given Hendon Hooker (knee) is out for the season. The Volunteers stumbled down the stretch, losing two of its last three games, each by a wide margin. A blowout win over Vanderbilt in their season finale is hardly an indication of anything to come.
It’s hard to predict what the Vols offense will look like without Hooker and top receiver Jalin Hyatt (personal).
Meanwhile, Clemson will continue to roll with new quarterback Cade Klubnik, who replaced D.J. Uiagalelei in the Tigers win over North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game. Klubnik was sensational in that 39-10 win, completing 20-of-24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown.
If he could torch the Tarheels defense, logic would tell you he could torch a Vols defense that gave up 63 points to Spencer Rattler and South Carolina back on Nov. 19.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (10-2, 6-6 ATS) vs. Kansas State (10-3, 9-3-1 ATS)
Moneyline: Alabama -260, Kansas State +210
Spread: Alabama -6.5
The Crimson Tide are understandably huge favorites in this one given Bryce Young and Will Anderson each vowed to play in what will be their final bowl game. However, Alabama has struggled to cover spreads this season. Conversely, Kansas State has been one of the most profitable teams this season.
Alabama’s biggest edge comes with its passing defense. However, the Wildcats offense relies much more heavily on its running game, one that ranks 17th in the nation. Kansas State’s edge is with turnover differential. The Wildcats rarely turn the ball over offensively and their defense ranks sixth in forcing takeaways.
Cotton Bowl: Tulane (11-2, 11-2 ATS) vs. USC (11-2, 8-5 ATS)
Moneyline: Tulane +110, USC -130
Spread: USC -2.0
Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams is playing in this game, which makes it surprising to see USC as such a slim favorite against a non-power five opponent.
Then you look at this Tulane offense that ranks 34th in total yards and 21st in scoring and it makes sense why the market is expecting the Green Wave to be able to move the football against the Trojans defense. Tulane is just as competent defensively, ranking 32nd in total yards allowed and 26th in scoring.
In what could be a meaningless game for USC after falling short of the CFP, Tulane might be the more motivated team going into this matchup.