2021 CFP Betting Preview

All 2021 CFP betting odds are as of 12/8/2021.

After a wild season, setting the field for the College Football Playoff turned out to be a relatively simple procedure.

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While familiar faces Alabama and Georgia are back, this year’s CFP is blessed with some new blood in the form of Michigan and (finally) a G5 team in Cincinnati.

Here’s our betting preview to New Year’s Eve’s two semi-final matchups.

No. 4 Cincinnati vs. No. 1 Alabama (-13.5)

*That* was the level of play we wondered if Alabama could reach again after some close calls earlier in the season. Led by probable Heisman winner Bryce Young, the Tide dismantled a historically-good UGA defense in the SEC title game and appeared to answer any remaining doubts about their potential.

In addition to the talent gulf–Alabama has 74 four- and five-stars on their roster compared to Cincinnati’s seven (all four stars)–Saban’s squad is near the top in the nation in just about every meaningful statistical category. Their weak point (if any) would be their rushing attack (79th in yards per play), but if Young is even half on the same page with Jameson Williams and the rest of the all-star receiving corps, it probably won’t matter.

Cincinnati runs a defensive scheme similar to Georgia’s (for better or worse) and is led by two projected first-round cornerbacks. The rest of the defense is also no slouch and actually ranks marginally higher than Bama in ESPN’s opponent-adjusted SP+ metric.

On the offensive side of the ball, UC is led by another projected first-rounder in QB Desmond Ridder. Although the Cats’ offense sputtered for some weeks in the middle of the season, they’ve steamrolled their last three opponents, including 11-win Houston in the AAC Championship. Although Bama’s game plan may revolve around shutting down Ridder and the passing attack, Cincy is also top ten in the country in average yards per play on the ground.

Our CFP betting prediction: Alabama 37, Cincinnati 17

The opening line from Vegas seems to respect the Bearcats more than the general public consensus does. As the money undoubtedly pours in for Bama and the spread grows larger, at some point the Bearcats might be worth considering for the cover, but it’s hard to call for anything except a total Tide victory based on what Bama usually does to their semi-final opponents.

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia (-8)

The once-invincible-but-now-shell-shocked Georgia Bulldogs get to try and regroup against the hottest team in the country–the previous two weeks, Michigan knocked off Ohio State and Iowa by a combined 84-30. That explosive offense revolves around Hassan Haskins, the Big Ten’s leading rusher who has three five-TD games under his belt this year.

However, the Wolverines falling behind early could mean relying on QB Cade McNamara, who doesn’t exactly set the world on fire through the air but has reasonably been consistent when called upon. He’s protected by an O-line that has allowed just 11 sacks all season–tied for second in the nation and one sack better than even Georgia themselves. And despite not getting many sacks or TFLs on the other side of the trenches, the UM scoring defense has allowed just 16.1 points per game (fourth in the country).

Like Michigan, Georgia plays a ball-control heavy game and (usually) suffocating defense. Even after the Bama blowout, the Dawgs still lead the nation in scoring defense, are second in passing defense (YPP), and third in rushing defense (YPP), making this game’s key matchup the Georgia run defense against the Michigan rush.

On the other side of the ball, Georgia finds themselves in the unusual position of having a December quarterback controversy–after throwing two costly picks against Alabama, there have been cries for Kirby Smart to switch out Stetson Bennett for the season’s original starter, JT Daniels. The biggest question marks for UGA might just be mental after the Dawgs staff and fanbase feel the real possibility of yet another amazing regular season with no title to show for it.

Our CFP betting prediction: Georgia 27, Michigan 21

If Georgia can use the long period off to get back to where they were mentally before the Bama beatdown, give us the overall-title favorites on the moneyline thanks to their talent edge.