College football predictions, odds: Expert picks for Alabama vs. Michigan, Washington vs. Texas bowl games

We spent months wondering which teams would finish in the final four, then almost another month debating which of the four selected teams would win. Now we are finally here. The College Football Playoff semifinals are here. Soon, Michigan, Alabama, Texas and Washington will all take the field in their respective semifinal games and end the debate once and for all.

But that doesn't mean we're going to stop trying to figure it out before kickoff.

Will Michigan finally get over the hump under Jim Harbaugh and win the College Football Playoff for the first time in three straight appearances (first as a No. 1 seed), en route to giving the faithful for the Wolverines their first national championship since 1997? Will Washington and Michael Penix Jr. continue to prove their doubters wrong while continuing their undefeated season as a No. 2 seed?

No. 3 Texas has already shown it's “back,” but the Longhorns — the third Big 12 team to make the CFP — could well be all the back if they can win their first national crown since 2005. And then there's Alabama, which controversially entered at No. 4 to undefeated Florida State and now must prove that move is correct. Will the Crimson Tide reclaim their throne and continue Nick Saban's streak of winning national titles at least once every three years in Alabama?

We'll know soon enough. For now, let's try to figure out what will happen in the CFP semifinals on Monday night, New Year's Day.

Rose Bowl 2023: (1) Michigan -1.5 vs. (4) Alabama

Spread: The line of this game is relevant. All things being equal, the outcome of this game is a draw. Michigan has been one of the most dominant teams in the country, and while it doesn't have the same level of postseason success that Alabama has experienced under coach Nick Saban, it doesn't. t's not your typical Alabama team. We've seen the Crimson Tide struggle against inferior competition at times this season, and the Wolverines' defense is legit; this will cause a lot of problems for the Tide.

Still, I'm not here to sit on the fence, so if I have to make a choice, it's hard to pass up Alabama as the underdog in a College Football Playoff game, right? The Tide has won three national titles in this format and has won more playoff games (nine) than any other program. Michigan has yet to win one despite making back-to-back appearances. Maybe his first will be in the Rose Bowl against Alabama, but I need proof of concept before betting on that. Pick: Alabama +1.5

Total: When you look at these teams, it's hard to argue that the best units on both teams are their defenses. However, this total does not give enough credit to the infractions. Michigan has scored 3.15 points per possession this season, which ranks seventh nationally. Alabama is not far behind with 2.81 (20th). Both teams excel at finishing drives in the red zone and avoiding negative plays that cause the offense to fall behind. Granted, neither has spent the entire season playing defense as good as the one they'll face here, but with a total of 44.5, it's not like we need a shootout with a high score. A 24-21 game brings us home. Also, have you seen the story of the Rose Bowl? It's a fast lane in Pasadena. Choose: Over 44.5

Sustain: Michigan's defense has been one of the most dominant units in the country. You can see this by looking at the numbers and observing them with your eyes. Some will point out that the offenses the Wolverines have faced have skewed these numbers. But then there are the stat geeks with fancy metrics that no one understands who will tell you that, even adjusted for their opponents, Michigan's defense has been incredible. Regardless, the fact is that the most mobile QB the Wolverines have faced is Rutgers' Gavin Wimsatt, and he doesn't pose much of a threat with his arm. They haven't seen anyone close to Jalen Milroe. Alabama will need to use Milroe's legs in this game to attack this Michigan defense. He tends to lose too many yards when sacked, but a few big carries should allow us to comfortably surpass that number. Pick: Jalen Milroe Over 32.5 rushing yards

Sugar Bowl 2023: (2) Washington +4 against (3) Texas

Spread: These teams have a lot in common. Both are led by excellent offensive players who do a tremendous job creating ways to get the ball into the hands of their best players. Both have excellent quarterbacks surrounded by a deep cadre of talent at the skill positions and solid offensive lines to boot. If there's a difference between them, it's on the defensive side of the ball. Texas' defensive line, led by T'Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy, might be the best in the country. This is certainly the best the Washington offense will have faced this season.

The problem for Texas? If there's a weak spot in the Longhorns' defense, it's the secondary, and that's a terrible place to have problems when you're facing Michael Penix Jr., Rome Odunze, Ja'Lynn Polk and the Huskies. I suspect this game will go back and forth seeing a lot of points put on the board, but Texas seems like the more complete team to me, so that's the side I'm taking. But don't worry, Washington. I felt the same way about Oregon, and you know how that turned out. Pick: Texas -4

Total: Points! Points! Points! While I'm not really confident in picking a winner here, I'm sure we'll see plenty of big plays and points on the scoreboard. I've just seen this game played too many times before. When you give two excellent players nearly a month to prepare a team and figure out what weaknesses they can exploit, that's usually what they do. While I like a lot of players on Texas' defense and several on Washington's unit, a good offense wins more often than not these days, and there are just too many playmakers in this game. Choice: Over 63.5

Sustain: Washington running back Dillon Johnson was the unsung hero of the Huskies' offense over the latter part of the season; he has averaged 137 rushing yards over the last five games with eight touchdowns. However, the Huskies didn't run into a defense comparable to Texas on the defensive line, especially with T'Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy in the middle. If you're looking at attacking Texas' defense, its secondary is the weakest link, so Johnson probably won't see as many carries in the Sugar Bowl as he has lately. Pick: Dillon Johnson Under 73.5 rushing yards

What college football picks can you make with confidence during bowl season? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread – all from a proven computer model that has returned well over $2,000 in profits over the past seven seasons. — and discover.

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