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Picks, predictions for College Football Playoff semifinals: Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl

The biggest games of the year are here. We make a pick for each of the CFP Semifinals today.

Desmond Ridder of the Cincinnati Bearcats carries the ball during the first half of the 2021 American Conference Championship against the Houston Cougars at Nippert Stadium on December 04, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Here’s the thing: We think all these lines are right. There’s not a ton of edge here either way, especially with the vig involved. But why get into nuance when there are fearless predictions to be made?? Here we go.

Alabama -13.5 over Cincinnati

We thought this would open Cinci -14.5, and we were happy to take the Bearcats at that price. It did tick back up to -14 last night, but the money jumps on UC when that happens and we’re back at -13.5. And without that key number, we’ll ride with the Tide.

Cincinnati won’t win this game, but they do two things that can keep it close: They take the air out of the ball as well as anyone (123rd in offensive plays per game at 63.7), and they have a quarterback in Desmond Ridder that can make 3-4 big plays by himself to extend drives.

Bryce Young will likely see a lot of Cover 2 & Cover 3 bend-don’t-break looks, and that should give the run game enough to move it downhill with success. But that’s not a lock: The low-key hole in Bama’s game is the ability to run the ball (75th in EPA run rate), and Cincinnati can stuff at the point of attack (4th in EPA run rate defense).

But it’s pick your poison with Bama, and Nick Saban’s defense has had four weeks to prepare for the Bearcats. The talent gap and depth makes the difference here.

Michigan +7.5 over Georgia

This is purely eye test vs. stats, and how you feel about one or the other should determine how you wager on this game.

By SP+ Georgia should be a 5.8-point favorite, significantly down from the 9.0-point advantage they would have had before Championship Weekend. But if momentum is a thing in college football, and there might not be a sport where it matters more.

Can you trust Kirby Smart to make the adjustments necessary to get everyone back on board after the SEC Championship disaster? Is there a run game in the country that’s looked more effective the last two games than Michigan?

Via EPA defense, the Bulldogs are still the best team in the country by a wide margin. And while Alabama had the players to expose them via a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, does Cade McNamara have that same skill set? Probably not, but he might have an O-line that can run block the best front seven college football has ever seen.

If this is -7, we might literally flip a coin. But we’ll take the hook if forced.

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