Preview and picks for the College Football Playoff semi-final games from FairwayJay
The biggest college football bowl games continue into the New Year, and on Dec. 31, the two national semifinal games will be most watched and wagered on at the leading online sportsbooks. We're adding our Picks and Opinions below, and you can review additional game stats, profiles and information you can bet on in my CFB Playoff and National Semifinal game coverage for Forbes.
There’s been only one outright semifinal upset in the last four years, and it was Ohio State (+7) crushing Clemson 49-28 two years ago on Jan. 1, 2021. Overall, favorites are 12-4 straight-up (SU) and 10-6 against the spread (ATS) in the semifinals.
Fiesta Bowl (CFP semifinal)
No. 2 Michigan (-7.5) vs. No. 3 TCU, Total 58 | 4 p.m. ET | ESPN
This game is in Glendale, AZ and the spread and total have held steady with Michigan nudging up to -8 at BetOnline. The Michigan Wolverines hold the edges, especially with their dominant defense. But the TCU Horned Frogs do have a top, balanced offense to have success with top tactician and savvy, veteran coach Sonny Dykes. This betting line is not budging this week despite more spread bets and money on Michigan, who are playing without injured star RB Blake Corum.
Peach Bowl (CFP semifinal)
No. 1 Georgia (-6.5) vs. No. 4 Ohio State, Total 62.5 | 8 p.m. ET | ESPN
This game is in Atlanta, and the line is dipping at some online sportsbooks to Georgia -6. We're supporting the Ohio State Buckeyes with their "200 Club" strong, balanced offense averaging 493 yards per game vs FBS opponents (same as Georgia), and the Buckeyes dominant defense that finished the season allowing 304 yards per game and 19.3 points per game (Georgia 306, 13.8 vs FBS). The Bulldogs have the No. 1 rush defense in the country (82 YPG vs FBS) but their pass defense is not up to par (224/game) and allowed 302 passing YPG over their last three contests. That included a season high 30 points and 549 yards (502 passing) vs LSU in a 50-30 SEC Championship game win. Ohio State leads the nation in expected points added per play. Georgia also had some flat games and wins this season versus Missouri (26-22) and Kentucky (16-6) with 363 yards vs. the Wildcats stronger defense. Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud (3,370 passing, 37 TDs, 6 INTs) passed for 349 yards but 2 INTs in the season-ending home loss when we cashed in on Michigan in a similar 'Dog role on our Week 13 picks. Hopefully Stroud makes more plays and doesn't screw up vs Georgia's dominant defense and can outplay fellow Heisman finalist, Georgia QB Stetson Bennett. Supporting the proven stat and ATS profiles with the well-rested and prepared Buckeyes, and following the in-game live betting. Hope Ohio State minimizes mistakes and turnovers, and takes advantage of their good CFB Playoff fortune to rise to the occasion.
Pick: Ohio State
Additional notes: Defending national champions (Georgia) have lost by 15 or more points in their last four Playoff appearances. In addition, none of the last six reigning national champions have repeated when making the CFB Playoff the following season. For what it's worth, this trend from Playbook Sports adds support to the Buckeyes. Teams who won and covered their conference title game (Georgia) are 0-10 SU and 1-9 ATS since 2008 versus foes coming off a SU loss as a favorite (Ohio State).
FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Follow FairayJay here at OSGA.com and on Twitter @FairwayJay for more sports and betting insights.