Prepping for the College Football Playoff

Drew Fischer, Assistant Sports Editor

On Sunday, December 4, the College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Committee released their final rankings for the 2022 season. Made up of 13 members, the committee is typically composed of athletic directors, former coaches, former players and respected members of the media. This year, the committee decided that the University of Georgia, the University of Michigan, Texas Christian University (TCU) and The Ohio State University were the four teams that earned the coveted spots as semifinalists in the CFP. After each semifinal matchup, the victors will face off in the National Championship, hosted at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA on Monday, Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. Immediately, several storylines stick out for this year’s clashes on New Year’s Eve. 

#2 Michigan vs #3 TCU:

In the CFP’s first slot at 4 p.m. EST, the undefeated Michigan Wolverines will face off against the TCU Horned Frogs in the Fiesta Bowl located in Glendale, Arizona. Coming off of a 34-11 defeat in last year’s CFP semifinal against last year’s National Champions, Georgia, Michigan will hope to use its recent playoff experience to its advantage.  

This season, the Wolverines (13-0) cruised to a victory in the Big Ten Championship against Purdue and knocked off the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus by a score of 45-23. Initially, Michigan was led by Blake Corum – one of the country’s most dynamic running backs who recorded 1,483 yards and 18 touchdowns and faced a season-ending surgery after a left knee injury against Illinois in mid-November. In his absence, running back Donovan Edwards stepped up at the end of the season to produce 872 yards and 7 touchdowns, including roughly 400 yards combined against Ohio State and Purdue. At the quarterback position, Michigan is led by J.J. McCarthy, the only quarterback in the CFP that is not in the Heisman Trophy conversation, which is awarded to the country’s most outstanding collegiate player.

On the other side, TCU (12-1) comes off their first defeat of the season against tenth-ranked Kansas State. With a previously unblemished record, the Horned Frogs failed to convert from the one-yard line in overtime and fell to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship. Despite this defeat, TCU’s resume and victories throughout the season earned them a spot in the CFP. 

Under first-year head coach Sonny Dykes, who came from Southern Methodist (SMU) in Nov. 2021, TCU beat five ranked opponents during the season. In these victories against Oklahoma, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas, quarterback Max Duggan paced the Horned Frogs. On the year, Duggan recorded 3,321 yards passing, threw for 30 touchdowns, had only four interceptions and also rushed for six touchdowns. TCU is also led by running back Kendre Miller who ran for 1,342 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. In this first matchup, Duggan and Miller will look to pace the Horned Frogs yet again and lead his side to victory against a stout Michigan defense aiming to rectify last year’s semi-final loss.

#1 Georgia vs #4 Ohio State:

In the second matchup of the CFP, the reigning champion Georgia Bulldogs will face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes, who narrowly slipped into the field after a late-season loss to Michigan. At the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, GA, the matchup will kick off at 8 p.m. EST in a game that sees Georgia play their third game of the season in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

Georgia returns to the CFP after last season’s dominant display in wins over Michigan in the semi-final and Alabama in the championship. After convincing victories against #1 ranked Tennessee and #11 ranked Oregon, Georgia is firing on all cylinders heading into this year’s semi-final.

Led by Stetson Bennett, last season’s CFP Offensive MVP award winner, a balanced rushing attack of Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards and a stellar defense, the Bulldogs will look to attack the Buckeyes early and often in Atlanta. On the year, Bennett has thrown for 3,425 yards and 20 touchdowns, putting him in the conversation for the Heisman trophy. As a veteran leader on the Georgia squad, Bennett will be expected to lead the team to another title by putting up points against the Ohio State defense. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Georgia has benefitted from the return of star defensive tackle, Jalen Carter. In his last six games, Carter has compiled 24 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles, helping to lead Georgia’s defense to yet another stellar season.

For the Buckeyes, a bid into the CFP was a sigh of relief after losing to Michigan. With USC’s loss in the PAC 12 Championship to Utah, Ohio State enters the CFP field by a very slim margin. 

Prior to the loss against Michigan, however, Ohio State looked like a well-oiled offensive machine and a force to be reckoned with. After defeating fifth-ranked Notre Dame and thirteenth-ranked Penn State in the regular season, quarterback C.J. Stroud will look to bring the Buckeyes’ aerial attack back to its midseason dominance.

In the time off before the semi-final, the key for Ohio State is getting healthy. Though one of the country’s best wide receivers, Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been ruled out for the season due to a hamstring injury. Also, injured Buckeye running backs still have a chance to get healthy for the game. Against Michigan, the Buckeyes were without their two leading rushers in Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson and were forced to start DeaMonte Trayanum – a converted linebacker. Suppose the Buckeyes want to compete against Georgia. In that case, the team must rest and recover, focus on spreading the ball to Biletnikoff award finalist Marvin Harrison (awarded to the college football season’s outstanding FBS receiver) and prevent Georgia from big offensive plays that quickly change the trajectory of the game.