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NCAA Bowls season | An intruder in the quad

For once, there hasn’t really been any controversy over which four teams will make it to the NCAA Semi-Finals this year. The selections of the committee responsible for choosing this quartet of teams were almost unanimous.

Posted 30 Dec. 2021

Miguel Bujold

Miguel Bujold
The Press

But there is an intruder club in the semifinals… A team that will make it to a semi-final for the first time in its history since the current playoff system was introduced in 2014, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats . The Bearcats finished the season ranked fourth in the NCAA and are probably the “smallest” college football program to make the playoffs.

However, it could hardly have been otherwise. The Bearcats finished their season with a clean 13-0 record. Although their schedule wasn’t particularly demanding, they still defeated a few good teams, including the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the University of Houston Cougars in the American Athletic Conference Finals ( VAC).

The Bearcats’ next game, however, will be the classic David vs. Goliath story. And we all know who is the Goliath in American college football. This is, of course, the Crimson Tide at the University of Alabama.


PHOTO GARY COSBY JR., USA TODAY SPORTS

Will Anderson Jr. (31), DeMarcco Hellams (2) and Jordan Battle (9), of Alabama’s Crimson Tide.

Ranked first in the NCAA, the Crimson Tide are currently favorites by 13.5 points to defeat the Bearcats in what will be the 86e edition of the Cotton Bowl, December 31 at 3:30 p.m. The game will be presented at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.

In the eight years since the inception of the current playoff format, the Crimson Tide have missed qualifying for the semi-finals only once, in 2019. The team has appeared in five of the eight finals and has won the national championship on three occasions. (2015, 2017 and 2020).

In addition to their three most recent wins, the University of Alabama team were crowned NCAA champions in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Their last six titles were all won under head coach Nick Saban . The latter can almost always rely on the most talented roster in the NCAA, sure, but his teams very rarely underperform and the credit goes to him.

And the Crimson Tide is bursting with talent once again this year. Quarterback Bryce Young recently won the Heisman Trophy, given to the most outstanding college player. Wide end Jameson Williams is spectacularly good and should be a top pick in the next NFL Draft. Offensive lineman Evan Neal, cornerback Josh Jobe and running back Brian Robinson Jr. are also all expected to be top picks in the 2022 draft.


PHOTO DARRON CUMMINGS, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

University of Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh surrounded by his players

Stars in Defense

The other semi-final will be between the University of Georgia Bulldogs (3e NCAA rank) to the University of Michigan Wolverines (2e row), a match that will also be played on December 31, at 7:30 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium, in Miami. Both teams have excellent defensive players who should begin their NFL careers next summer.

The Bulldogs held No. 1 in the NCAA for part of the season, but slipped to No. 3 after being easily defeated by the Crimson Tide in the Southeastern Conference Finals. The Bulldogs’ strength is their defense as three of their starters could be picked in the first round of the NFL auction. They are quarterback fighter Travon Walker, tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean.

Led by former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines have an excellent pair of quarterback chasers in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. Like the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs, the Wolverines finished their season with a 12-1 record.

The two teams that will win their semi-finals will face each other on Monday, January 10 in the championship game. This game will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.


PHOTO RICK OSENTOSKI, USA TODAY SPORTS

Ohio University Buckeyes quarterback Josh Fryar

Busy schedule on New Year’s Day

As is customary, several Bowls matches will be played on New Year’s Day. Three matches promise to be particularly interesting.

At 1 p.m., Notre Dame University (5e rank) will face the Oklahoma State Cowboys (9e) during the Fiesta Bowl, a game that will allow us to see who is considered the best safety available for the NFL draft, Kyle Hamilton, of the Fighting Irish.

The Rose Bowl will follow at 5 p.m., as the Ohio State Buckeyes (6e rank) and the University of Utah Utes (11e rank) will come to grips. The Buckeyes’ two leading wide ends, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, are expected to be among the top 50 prospects picked in the NFL in April.

The New Year’s schedule will end with a game between the Baylor University Bears (7e rank) and the Ole Miss University Rebels (8e rank). The player to watch in this game will be Rebels quarterback Matt Corral, who will most likely be one of the first two or three quarterbacks drafted in the spring.

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