It’s officially time for the College Football Playoff (CFP) semifinals, and bettors are getting in on the action for the Sugar Bowl matchup between No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Washington and the Rose Bowl battle between No. 1 Michigan and No. 4 Alabama.
In the “Granddaddy of Them All,” Michigan is currently a 1.5-point favorite over Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Down South in the Sugar Bowl, the Longhorns are 4-point favorites over the Huskies.
Our experts — Chris “The Bear” Fallica, Sam “Sammy P” Panayotovich, Geoff Schwartz and Jason McIntyre — are here to give you their best bets, predictions and insights for the CFP semifinals.
Let’s dive into their picks.
ROSE BOWL: NO. 1 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES vs. NO. 4 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
5 p.m. ET Monday, ESPN
Chris “The Bear” Fallica: Alabama +1.5, Under 45 points
The Michigan offensive line, I worry about them. They’re without Zak Zinter, and we saw the Alabama front play much better toward the end of the year. You worry about losing experience and a really good player and how it might affect them.
Jason McIntyre: Michigan -1.5
The Tide get pushed around at the line of scrimmage and Jim Harbaugh snaps a six-game bowl losing streak and advances to the title game.
Sammy P: Michigan moneyline, lean Under 45 points
It’s a nervous spot betting against Nick Saban in this round with all the extra time. It’s a very precarious situation, as we all know. This guy, when you give him a month to prepare, figures out what you do well. But I think Michigan is criminally underrated still, even at 13-0. … And I think the big key matchup in this game is the Wolverines’ defense against Alabama’s offense.
I don’t see that NFL playmaking talent when it comes to receiver and running back for the Crimson Tide. Jalen Milroe has gotten better, a lot better over the course of the season, but I don’t know that Alabama is going to score.
Geoff Schwartz: Michigan Under 23.5 points
This game is a toss-up for me, so I’m staying away from picking a winner. I’d lean Crimson Tide, but so does the rest of the country, and that’s not a spot where I like to wager. So instead, I’m going to wager on the Alabama defense being able to stop Michigan’s offense.
Michigan’s offense has played three good defenses this season: Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa. The Wolverines won all three because of their defense because the offense was not good. Michigan generated only 10 explosive plays in those three games combined, with six of them coming against the Nittany Lions.
A handful of explosive plays a game will not cut it against the Tide.
The Wolverines should be healthier, which could help the offense, but the offensive line has regressed and J.J. McCarthy does not generate enough explosive passing plays for me to believe it’s going to happen against Alabama. We basically saw Michigan’s offensive structure in what Georgia attempted to do in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama. It didn’t work. So I have Michigan Under 23.5 points in this game.
CFP Semifinals: Alabama vs. Michigan, Texas vs. Washington best bets and odds
SUGAR BOWL: NO. 2 WASHINGTON HUSKIES VS. NO. 3 TEXAS LONGHORNS
8:45 p.m. ET Monday, ESPN
Pick from Chris “The Bear” Fallica: Texas -4
I like the Longhorns here. Of the four teams in the CFP, I think Texas is the most complete, well-rounded team with what the Longhorns can do offensively and with that front seven on defense. They have the most ways to beat you.
It certainly wasn’t a fluke that Texas won that game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa earlier in the year. The Longhorns aren’t getting the full amount of respect they deserve for the season that they put together.
I think one of the biggest keys to the game will be Washington’s ability to stop the Texas running game. The Huskies will have to play zone. If they’re forced to play man, that could be a problem. Also, can Washington’s offensive line block the Longhorns?
If Texas can pressure Michael Penix and force him to make decisions earlier than he would like, that will disrupt the Huskies’ offense — something they didn’t face a ton this year in the Pac-12.
Jason McIntyre: Texas -4
The Longhorns control the clock with a formidable run game and Washington’s defense crumbles against Quinn Ewers.
Sammy P: Over 31.5 first–half points, lean Over 63 points
I was trying to figure out if I want to play first half Over or game Over? Sixty-three is a lot — but it’s not when you have NFL talent all over the field. Washington has two receivers that are going to be in the NFL. Michael Penix has just been making all the throws.
These guys are going to be throwing bombs on the field, too. You have so much speed and skill on offense.
Schwartz: Over 31.5 first-half points
The first half of this game is going to feature fireworks from both offenses. Washington’s Kalen DeBoer, with his offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, design and scheme some of the best offensive plays in the sport. They’re not a one-hit wonder either; they’ve been doing this together for years.
While Texas is extremely sound in the middle of its defense, it has not seen a wide receiver corps or a quarterback like what Washington is going to present. The Huskies’ coaching staff will have something ready for the Longhorns.
The same could be said for the Texas offense. Give Steve Sarkisian a month to prepare for a contest against a Washington defense that’s far better late in the game than early, and the Longhorns are bound to score quickly. The Huskies’ defense is not good on paper and has struggled early in games, often allowing the bulk of points in the first three quarters, then shutting teams down late.
The Longhorns will establish the line of scrimmage early and hit play-action passes to generate early scores. I think we see a track meet in the first half. I like the Over 31.5 first-half points.
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