Ross Tucker's best bets for the College Football Playoff semifinals and EVERY New Year's Six Bowl game

The Michigan Wolverines
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Ross Tucker

NCAAF· 3 weeks ago

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Former NFL player, now host of the Ross Tucker Podcast and involved in a number of media gigs, including giving my best thoughts and advice right here on Pickswise!

There’s nothing better in college football than bowl season. I have my picks in for each of the New Year’s Six Bowl games this week, including both College Football Playoff semifinals. Check out my best bets for every game below.

Orange Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs vs Michigan Wolverines

Big. Boy. Football.

That’s what I think of when I break down the Orange Bowl clash between the Michigan Wolverines and the Georgia Bulldogs in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve.

Both teams are happiest when they are running the ball down their opponents’ throats on offense while stuffing the run and getting after the quarterback on defense.  

As a result, I am expecting a lower-scoring, close, tough football game and with that being the case I will take Michigan and the 7.5 points without any hesitation. Getting more than a touchdown and the hook feels significant in a game that I believe could come down to the final possession.

Georgia and its outstanding defense will almost certainly bounce back from the Alabama beatdown they suffered in the SEC Championship game, but I can’t help but wonder if the Crimson Tide perhaps exposed a few chinks in what had previously been thought to be an impenetrable armor. And if anybody can ground and pound against the Bulldogs, it is the Wolverines.  There’s a reason why that Michigan offensive line won the Joe Moore Award given annually to the best offensive line in all of college football. They earned it all year, but especially in the way they handled Ohio State on the last Saturday in November. Expect a heavy dose of Michigan running back Hassan Haskins as the Wolverines stick with the run and shorten the game even if they don’t have early success.

Meanwhile, defensively the Wolverines have one DE — Aidan Hutchinson — who was a Heisman finalist and could be the No. 1 overall pick. That would be impressive enough in its own right, but the guy on the other side of him — youngster David Ojabo — is also a future first-round pick. They say big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games, and for Michigan that will certainly have to be the case with Hutchinson and Ojabo.

Ultimately, I think we are in for a fantastic, toss-up type of game — at least that’s what I’m hoping. And if that’s the case then getting more than a touchdown with Michigan is clearly the way to go.

Pick: Michigan +7.5

Be sure to check out our full game preview for Georgia Bulldogs vs Michigan Wolverines

Cotton Bowl: Cincinnati Bearcats vs Alabama Crimson Tide

I’m tired of the disrespect toward the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Because of their status as a “Group of 5” program as opposed to a blueblood “Power 5”, people continue to doubt them. Even this year, it felt like the College Football Playoff committee was hoping someone — anyone — would give them a chance to keep the Bearcats out of the tournament.

Well, they’re in and I am here to tell you they belong there and will prove it on Friday against Alabama.

Let’s start with what they’ve done over the last two years. They are 22-1 with their only loss in that stretch being a 24-21 heartbreaker to the same Georgia team that is also in the College Football Playoff this year. Frankly, they were the better team in that game and blew it at the end — but a loss is a loss.

But if a loss is a loss, then a win is a win — and that’s the case even though folks like to criticize their schedule as a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats have one of the most impressive wins of the entire college football season. They went to South Bend and beat a Notre Dame team that finished 11-1 and is ranked #5 by…you guessed it…the College Football Playoff committee. 

And they didn’t just beat the Fighting Irish. They beat them by double digits (24-13). It wasn’t some fluke. This is who Cincinnati is. You’re talking about a team whose quarterback, Desmond Ridder, is a legit NFL prospect who will be drafted on Day 2 if he doesn’t end up going in the first round.  

On defense, the ‘Cats have two of the top 10 cornerbacks in April’s Draft — including Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. They also have an elite edge rusher in Myjai Sanders. My point is: they boast top-flight players at the positions where you need them to succeed in college football.

Yes, Alabama still has more talent. And yes, Alabama has more experience in these playoff games. I don’t care. Alabama could absolutely win, but by more than 13.5 points? No way. Give me Cincinnati.

Pick: Cincinnati +13.5

Peach Bowl: Pittsburgh Panthers vs Michigan State Spartans

It’s interesting to see two teams that haven’t been in a big bowl game in a long time both make it here at the same time. The other similarity is that they will both have to play without their Heisman candidate star, as both Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker are both sitting out of this game to prepare for their NFL careers. 

I’m thinking no Pickett is a bigger loss for Pitt than no Walker is for the Spartans — probably a much bigger loss. I’ll lay the points with Sparty.

Pick: Michigan State -2.5

Be sure to check out our full game preview for Pittsburgh Panthers vs Michigan State Spartans

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State Cowboys vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish

There’s a couple of reasons why I like the Irish in this one.  Firstly, I don’t think they were thrilled with the way former head coach and new LSU coach Brian Kelly left them. The other is it is clear this group absolutely loves new head coach Marcus Freeman and wants to play for him and show the administration and everybody else they made the right decision to hire him. Oh, and the Cowboys lost their stud defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to Ohio State. That certainly doesn’t help, either. Give me the Irish.

Pick: Notre Dame -2.5

Sugar Bowl: Baylor Bears vs Ole Miss Rebels

The Rebels have more speed, played a much tougher schedule, and have a future first-round pick playing quarterback in Matt Corral. The Bears have had a great season and deserve a ton of credit, but there is still a decent talent deficit for them in this one which is essentially a pick’em.

Pick: Ole Miss -1

Rose Bowl: Utah Utes vs Ohio State Buckeyes

I’m usually not one to lay the points and I have been thoroughly impressed by linebacker Devin Lloyd and the Utes this year, especially on defense. That being said, they don’t stockpile 4- and 5-star recruits like the Buckeyes do, and this Ohio State team is anxious to get that Michigan loss out of their mouths and get started on what could be a special 2022 season.

Pick: Ohio State -6.5

Catch Ross Tucker on Pickswise Playbook throughout the NFL season, giving his best picks every week. Subscribe to our YouTube channel here

Pickswise is the home of College Football Picks and College Football Predictions. Check out our latest College Football analysis including our College Football Parlay picks and our College Football Best Bets.

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