College Football Recap; Cotton & Orange Bowl Set Stage for CFP Championship

Happy New Year, everyone. The sports world ended 2021 in style with the two CFP semifinal games, №1 Alabama vs №4 Cincinnati and №2 Michigan vs №3 Georgia. The two games weren’t necessarily close, but they did provide viewers with some exciting football to close out the year. They set up the foundation for the CFP championship, the game that will crown the best team in college football this season. There’s plenty to discuss, so without further ado, let’s dive in.

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Logo in AT&T Stadium.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs Cincinnati

The Cotton Bowl this year featured Alabama from the SEC and Cincinnati from the AAC. Cincinnati made history as they were the first team in CFP history to reach the playoff as a non-Power five team. Their 13–0 undefeated run impressed the committee and allowed for them to come away with a 4 seed in the CFP. Alabama, a powerhouse in the college football world, made its 7th appearance in the CFP this season. They overcame an early season upset to Texas A&M, winning 7 straight games following the loss to take the top seed in the bracket. The closing total of this game was 57.5. The closing line was Alabama -13.0, making the Bearcats quite the underdog.

Alabama started the 1st quarter hot with a 75 yard TD drive, capped by a QB Bryce Young 8 yard pass to WR Slade Bolden. Cincinnati responded with a respectable drive, getting a 1st & goal opportunity at the Alabama 9 yard line, but the Bearcats could not punch it into the end zone. They settled for a FG made by kicker Cole Smith. Cincinnati would only score 3 more points this game as the Alabama defense smothered any chances for the explosive Bearcat offense we saw this season. The Crimson Tide had a total 6 sacks in the game compared to Cincinnati’s 2.

Bryce Young had his way with the Bearcat defense, tossing 3 touchdowns including a 44 yard deep ball to Freshman WR Ja’Corey Brooks in the 2nd quarter. Brooks was the leading receiver for the Crimson Tide, accumulating 66 yards on 4 receptions plus the TD. On the ground, Sr. Brian Robinson Jr. played a large part in Alabama’s offensive success as he chugged for a career high 204 yards on 26 carries. As for the Bearcats, Sr. Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder was held out of the end zone and totaled 144 yards on 17 completions. Jr. Jerome Ford led the team in rushing yards contributing 77 yards on 15 carries, and Sr. Michael Young Jr. led the Bearcats in the receiving department with 55 yards on 4 catches.

The Crimson Tide won out this game by a score of 27–6, covering the spread of 13 points and sliding the total way short of 57.5. Alabama has earned their spot in the championship game and while Cincinnati came up short in this contest, they have plenty to be proud of this season. They had a very successful campaign and made history, breaking barriers that were meant to keep them exiled from college football’s highest stage.

Michigan QB Cade Mcnamara trotting onto the field.

Capital One Orange Bowl: Michigan vs Georgia

The Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL hosted Michigan from the Big Ten and Georgia from the SEC. Michigan was the Big Ten’s 3rd team to make an appearance in the CFP, and entered the season unranked. Georgia made its 2nd appearance sporting an 12–1 record losing only to the Crimson Tide in the SEC title game. The closing total on this game was 46. This was also expected to be a closer game with Georgia closing in at a favorite of -7.5.

Georgia started out this game similar to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, with a TD on their opening drive. The Bulldogs marched 80 yards, topped off by Sr. Stetson Bennett tossing a 9 yard pass to Freshman TE Brock Bowers. Michigan took the field next, and lost a gamble which put them at a disadvantage early in the game. They went for it on 4th & 4 at the Georgia 41 yard line, but the pass from Jr. Cade Mcnamara fell incomplete intended for Jr. TE Erick All. Georgia capitalized, scoring a TD off the turnover on downs, and tacked on a FG later giving Georgia a 17–0 lead in the 2nd quarter. They wouldn’t look back as the Bulldogs maintained a 14 point lead or larger for the rest of the game. Georgia’s defense held the Wolverines to a measly 11 points, tallying 4 sacks while Michigan had none.

Stetson Bennett dominated the Wolverines’ secondary, totaling 313 yards and 3 TDs on a 66% completion percentage. One of his touchdowns was a 57 yard long ball to Sophomore WR Jermaine Burton. James Cook, a Sr. RB, led the Bulldog offense in receiving yards, amassing 112 yards on 4 receptions and a touchdown. Jr. Zamir White led the way on the ground with 54 rushing yards on 12 carries. It was a nightmare night for Michigan QB Cade Mcnamara who only threw for 106 yards and was intercepted 2 times. He was switched out for Freshman JJ McCarthy who threw for 131 yards and a TD. Erick All led the team in receiving yards with 63 on 4 catches, and Sr. Hassan Haskins was kept out of the end zone and held to 39 yards on 9 carries.

The Georgia Bulldogs came out victors of the Orange Bowl, final score 34–11. They covered the -7.5 spread with ease and the total squeaked just under, falling short of the total by 1 point. Georgia moves onto the championship where we will see an SEC title game rematch between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs. Michigan will finish this season 12–2, and definitely exceeded expectations this year.

Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

Concluding Thoughts

The CFP championship between Georgia and Alabama should be very entertaining this year. At the time of publishing, Georgia has opened at a -3 favorite and the O/U total stands at 52.5. We’ve got the top two college football teams in the country going at each other, both hungry to be crowned victorious. Georgia will be trying to get revenge for their loss in the SEC title game, but Alabama is eager to repeat that result. Will Georgia’s stout defense, allowing 9.6 points per game this season, kill the Crimson Tide’s high octane offense? Or will Nick Saban’s squad and QB Bryce Young get the best of the Bulldogs, giving Alabama their 4th championship win? All we can do is wait until Jan. 10th, where the battle between these two programs will be legendary.

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