College Football Playoff semifinal score predictions for Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl – Tuscaloosa Magazine

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The College Football Playoff gets under way with semifinal games on New Year’s Eve. Alabama plays Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl and Georgia plays Michigan in the Orange Bowl. The winners will advance to the Jan. 10 national championship game in Indianapolis.

Eleven experts from the USA TODAY Network’s SEC coverage team have picked the score of both games. Here are their picks:

Cotton Bowl

Alabama vs. Cincinnati

Eric Blum, Columbia Daily Tribune

Cincinnati 34, Alabama 31

Looks like I’m all alone with this pick. And that’s fine. Cincinnati is the outsider and was less challenged in the regular season coming from a Group of Five conference. Despite some midseason turbulence, the Bearcats passed every challenge, including a road win at Notre Dame. The way Auburn made Alabama look prone plays into Cincinnati’s favor. It pulls the upset. 

Bennett Durando, Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama 42, Cincinnati 27

As mortal as Alabama looked a few times throughout SEC play, it reminded the country of its superior talent in the SEC Championship Game against a Georgia team that was supposed to be invulnerable. Cincinnati’s secondary is good enough to hang around early with Bryce Young, Jameson Williams and company. But if the Dawgs couldn’t keep up for four quarters, how can the Bearcats?

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Jon Hale, Louisville Courier Journal

Alabama 35, Cincinnati 24

I wish I could talk myself into picking the upset, but this isn’t March Madness. Maybe COVID will be the great equalizer, but in the absence of knowing which specific players might be unavailable, I’ll stick with the team with the most depth and NFL talent.

Christina Long, Southwest Times Record

Alabama 38, Cincinnati 28

Despite Will Anderson Jr.’s attempts to convince us otherwise, Alabama is a two-touchdown favorite in this game. The two teams match up well on paper, but seeing how Alabama carved up an intimidating Georgia defense, Bryce Young and the Tide should get the win over less-tested Cincinnati.

Nick Kelly, The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama 45, Cincinnati 20

There’s no tougher introduction to the College Football Playoff than Alabama, the team that has made it every year but one. Beating the Crimson Tide will prove to be too big a task for Cincinnati as Bryce Young and company continue the momentum from the SEC Championship Game.

Andy Kostka, The Clarion Ledger

Alabama 45, Cincinnati 28

If Cincinnati can keep this game even close, that will be practically a moral victory. If not, then the chance of a non-Power 5 program making the College Football Playoff takes a big knock. Alabama should have its way should Heisman winner Bryce Young look as good as he did against Georgia’s defense. 

Adam Sparks, Knoxville News Sentinel

Alabama 45, Cincinnati 24

Good for Cinderella in getting a chance. On rare occasions, Group of Five teams deserve to be in the CFP. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, it’s playing a team that’s accustomed to this stage as if it’s a regular-season game. Cincinnati will hold its own in spurts but not four quarters. Look for Alabama to head to an all-SEC CFP title game.

Nick Suss, The Clarion Ledger

Alabama 44, Cincinnati 21

Alabama has a way of making easy playoff wins feel inevitable. Give all the respect in the world to Cincinnati for running the table and expect the Bearcats’ secondary to put up as good a fight as anyone against Bryce Young and Alabama’s receivers. But in a game that comes down to one team outlasting the other, expect Alabama’s depth to show through.

Blake Toppmeyer, SEC columnist

Alabama 38, Cincinnati 20

As hard as it is for me to believe that Alabama cured its season-long inconsistency with one dominating triumph over Georgia, I just can’t erase what I saw in the Crimson Tide’s 41-24 SEC championship victory. Alabama has the best quarterback (Bryce Young), the most disruptive player in the country (linebacker Will Anderson Jr.) and the greatest college football coach of all time. That should be enough to handle the plucky Bearcats.

Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner Herald

Alabama 38, Cincinnati 24

Yes, Alabama doesn’t have John Metchie but it still has Bryce Young and Jameson Williams and a program that is used to playing on the CFP stage. Cincinnati is crashing the party. It showed last year in the Peach Bowl it belonged by having Georgia on the ropes before the Bulldogs pulled it out. Pencil Alabama into the national title game. Will Anderson may have something to prove after being snubbed from being a Heisman finalist.

Mike Wilson, Knoxville News Sentinel

Alabama 35, Cincinnati 21

Alabama has looked like two different teams this season — the one that didn’t put away lesser teams and the one that smoked Georgia in the SEC title game. Bryce Young is rolling and he will challenge what has been an elite Cincinnati secondary in a different way.

Orange Bowl

Georgia vs. Michigan

Eric Blum, Columbia Daily Tribune

Michigan 38, Georgia 28

These two teams are well-matched. Michigan’s offense has been tough to stop. Alabama’s offense was the only squad to make Georgia’s defense look human. I just don’t see Stetson Bennett as the guy capable of leading the Bulldogs to a championship game. Michigan has the edge. 

Bennett Durando, Montgomery Advertiser

Georgia 34, Michigan 28

The SEC has been down on its luck in early bowl games, but the big dogs aren’t to be messed with. Georgia’s defense matches up well with Michigan. The Bulldogs will bounce back with a late stop to humble the Big Ten.

Jon Hale, Louisville Courier Journal

Georgia 24, Michigan 17

Michigan is a legitimate threat here, but Georgia received its wakeup call already in the SEC Championship Game. Here comes Alabama-Georgia, part two. 

Christina Long, Southwest Times Record

Georgia 31, Michigan 20

Michigan relies on Hassan Haskins and the running game, while Georgia relies on its staunch rushing defense. Something has to give, and a Georgia team looking to prove itself again after the SEC championship loss will get the win over Michigan.

Nick Kelly, The Tuscaloosa News

Georgia 24, Michigan 17

The Bulldogs had a wakeup call against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia has had a few weeks to regroup and refocus, and that will result in a win for the Bulldogs in an overall close game. 

Andy Kostka, The Clarion Ledger

Georgia 28, Michigan 21

Georgia’s defense got rocked by Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. A performance that poor isn’t like to happen twice in a row.

Adam Sparks, Knoxville News Sentinel

Georgia 28, Michigan 17

You’d think the SEC’s horrible start to the bowl season would dissuade picking Georgia. Not so fast. Losing the Liberty Bowl is one thing. Losing to a Big Ten team in a CFP semifinal is quite another. Georgia’s defense is better than anything Michigan has seen, and its offense is good enough. If you liked the SEC title game, you’ll get a sequel in the national championship.

Nick Suss, The Clarion Ledger

Georgia 20, Michigan 14

Georgia got exposed against Alabama. Michigan has played as well as anyone down the stretch. But we do have to take 13 games worth of evidence on this one, not just the last one. And for 12 games, Georgia looked like it had the best defensive in modern college football history. Expect that group to bounce back in a close, low-scoring battle.

Blake Toppmeyer, SEC columnist

Georgia 28, Michigan 17

The Bulldogs proved poorly equipped to handle Alabama’s speed, but this is a matchup of a different sort. This should be a slugfest of stout defenses and run-fueled offenses. For three months, Georgia looked like the nation’s best team. For one game in Atlanta, it looked pedestrian. But Alabama isn’t the opponent here.

Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner Herald

Georgia 31, Michigan 20

Michigan has Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson and another fierce pass rusher in David Ojabo, but the Bulldogs have a deep front seven that is better suited for this matchup against Michigan than it was for the SEC Championship Game. Stetson Bennett won’t be outmatched by Cade McNamara. The Wolverines will hit a big play or two, but the Bulldogs’ speedy linebackers should slow down Michigan’s run game. The Bulldogs could unleash George Pickens in this one and should get more from its pass rush. Bulldogs bounce back for a second trip to the CFP championship game.

Mike Wilson, Knoxville News Sentinel

Michigan 27, Georgia 21

Michigan is peaking at the right time behind a stout rushing attack and a dominant defensive front. It is a Wolverines team built for this type of matchup against a Georgia team that is coming off a loss to Alabama, the only truly good team it played this season. Michigan defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo make the difference and make life miserable for Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett.