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Giving Away Money: CFP Semifinal picks against the spread to enhance your filthy lucre

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‘Bama — Cincy, ‘Dawgs — Wolverines: Here’s who we’ve got.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Las Vegas

No. 2 Michigan +7.5 vs. Georgia

We’ll take the JV game first, featuring the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines and the non-SEC-title-havers in Athens, the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs. Welp, I don’t think it looks good for Meat Chicken. It’s just a bad, bad matchup for the Wolverines.

And it starts on the opening kick, where UGA’s kicking and coverage game has allowed opponents an average field position at the 25.25 yard line — one quarter-of-one-yard beyond the minimum; just 9” beyond the 25-yard-line. Yes, that’s the best in the country.

So, already, UM starts off having to drive 75 yards. They also have to do it against the team that is practically 1st in every defensive metric imaginable, save negative plays created (“just” 7th overall), and vs. the run (a paltry 2nd overall). UM’s passing game is just 34th in opponent-adjusted efficiency, and they live and die by the run (5th overall) — one that allows less than one point per drive. That means UM is going to have to win the LOS against the best front seven in America, consistently. For 60 minutes.

To their credit, UM is very good on 1st and 2nd down runs though, over 5.5 YPC both downs. And they’ll need to be, because they are miserable on 3rd down rushes (3.13 YPC), and just as bad on 3rd down passing — 48.9% on passes over 3 yards on 3rd and 4th down, with 4 interceptions thrown. (There is a reason this team is just +5 in TOM this year, and that plummets to -2 vs. Ranked Teams.)

Their reward if they have to punt? UM trots out their solid, but not overwhelming, defense that keeps plays in front of them, plays it safe, tries to disrupt the LOS, and then play for a punt. But their opponent is in the Top 10 in every offensive efficiency category too, vs. a UM team that doesn’t force many turnovers.

Just for good measure, UGA has the No. 1 overall special teams group in the country too — kicking, punting, coverage, and return efficiency.

That’s what UM is facing.

And, really, how well was that defense tested in a down B1G-East this season? Against the four teams UM faced in the Top 20 of adjusted efficiency offense, UM gave up: 29, 27, 37, and 14 points. QUICK! Can you spot which one was a MAC team? Against the three Top 20 P5 offenses, UM allowed 33 PPG. Against everyone else? 11.33 PPG.

I don’t want to say that it’s the Same Ole’ Michigan...but, yeah, it looks like the Same Ole’ Michigan.

Yes, Michigan has been much better ATS this year than the ‘Dawgs. And in games where the spread has been one score, UM is 4-1 on the season, including two S/U wins as underdog. But this is the best defense they’ve seen by a country mile, the best offense they’ve seen overall, the best set of lines in the country, and analytics simply don’t like the matchup here for the Wolverines.

As a fan, I’d love to dump-truck Jim Harbaugh for a national title, but the data thinks Alabama gets a rematch of the SECCG...and a far stiffer test.

UGA -10.419 (and I suspect worse)
CI 87% to cover 7.5
Georgia 37 Michigan 13 (over 45)

Poll

Who ya’ got?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Georgia -7.5, Over 45
    (196 votes)
  • 36%
    Georgia -7.5, Under 45
    (187 votes)
  • 7%
    Michigan +7.5, Over 45
    (41 votes)
  • 17%
    Michigan +7.5, Under 45
    (90 votes)
514 votes total Vote Now

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Alabama

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama -13.5 vs. Cincinnati

I’m trying to think of something clever or insightful to say here.

We did a special three-part breakdown already of Alabama’s offensive efficiency, its defensive efficiency, and Cincinnati generally. I would refer you to those three (ahem, excellent) pieces, while I take a moment here to put it all together in narrative form.

For all of the hype surrounding UC’s defense, it will be Alabama’s defense that controls this game, and it will do so for a few reasons.

1. Cincinnati’s offensive line has been fairly average this season when viewed granularly, and permits quite a few negative plays. Against competent defensive fronts, they have been gashed repeatedly, the running game has stalled, and it has made UC a one-dimensional team that can’t convert on 3rd down (just 10.52% against ranked teams), and one that turns it over as much as it forces turnovers. UC’s line is just overwhelmed against Power 5 foes. Against IU and ND, the only two P5 teams UC faced, they allowed 10 of their 45.0 TFL (25% in 13.66% of the schedule), and 6 of their 20 sacks (30% in 13.66% of the schedule).

And now they have to face an Alabama unit that is 4th in the country in TFL forced (3rd in per-game TFL), 3rd in the nation in sacks, and that just so happens to have the best player in the country rushing the passer? A disgruntled one, I add.

Tough, tough draw.

2. And, buddy, does UC does turn it over a whole bunch: the most of any 2021 playoff team this season — indeed, the most of any playoff team in the CFP era. Ignore the +14 TOM, where Cincy leads the country. Against teams at or above .500, that drops to just +1 overall, and UC committed 11 of their 19 TOs in just those 7 games.

Alabama, meanwhile, is 11th in TOM, and has a +7 against teams with winning records — they’re doing good work against good teams. One reason? The Tide’s 30.3% disruptive play percentage.

3. Alabama’s offensive efficiency. Bryce Young is a monster on 3rd down passing, and he has been helped out by one of the nation’s most efficient first down offenses. Brian Robinson has toted this team on his back on first down, nearing 6.0 YPC and putting ‘Bama in great position on 2nd and 3rd. But, should it get to 3rd down, Alabama leads the nation in 3rd down conversion percentage, 3D against ranked teams, and 3D against teams above .500.

4. Finally, special teams is a huge advantage to Alabama here. Alabama is just 19th overall in ST efficiency (largely because of poor punting, and a few longer returns surrendered), but it’s hardly as bad as UC’s — 77th in the country. Cincy has the nation’s worst kicking game; Alabama has a kicker who has hit 85% of his FGA vs. ranked teams. Cincy allows about a billion yards per KOR; Alabama is 20th in the nation in KRs and has taken 4 kicks to the house. And, finally, UC has a kicker that can’t get the ball into the endzone accurately (6 OB), or over half the time (48%).

And they get to kick against Jameson Williams.

Everything indicates that the Bearcats are outmanned here. Expect a game with a lot of flags, plenty of explosive plays, some game-changing special teams moments, and an Alabama defensive front that strangles the running game and forces a lot of turnovers.

Football is a game of matchups; this is perhaps the worst possible team that UC could have drawn: Alabama just does everything so well that is positioned to exploit Cincinnati’s weaknesses.

Alabama -19.78
CI 90% to cover -13.5
Alabama 42 UC 17

Alabama is sitting at -13.5 (-$525), as of Boxing Day, 12/16/2021, and 55% of the action the last 48 hours has been on the Bearcats.

For more, you can see our hub at the DraftKings Supergroup.

Poll

Who ya’ got?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Alabama -13.5, Over 58
    (322 votes)
  • 34%
    Alabama -13.5, Under 58
    (186 votes)
  • 1%
    Cincinnati, Over 58
    (9 votes)
  • 3%
    Cincinnati, Under 58
    (16 votes)
533 votes total Vote Now