Before Georgia defensive again Chris Smith sat down for his digital Orange Bowl information convention, a blue disposable masks coated the decrease half of his face.
Even as skilled leagues bend their schedules due to Covid-19 outbreaks, the College Football Playoff’s message is evident: We will take precautions, however playoff video games won’t be postponed. If no group is ready to play in the nationwide title sport in January, no champion will likely be topped this season.
Several bowl video games have been canceled due to outbreaks, however a slate of the main bowls is coming Friday and Saturday.
Here is a take a look at how the semifinal groups and some bowl contenders match up:
All instances Eastern.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS
COTTON BOWL: 1 ALABAMA vs. 4 CINCINNATI
3:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN
The Group of Five’s Cincinnati Bearcats (13-0) obliterated their American Athletic Conference opponents with stout protection. The Bearcats’ playoff résumé is highlighted by an announcement victory over Notre Dame in October and a win over Houston in the A.A.C. championship sport. A newcomer to the playoff, Cincinnati is attempting to change into the first group exterior of the Power 5 conferences — The Atlantic Coast, the Big 12, the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and the Southeastern — to win it because it started in 2014.
Alabama (12-1) briefly vacated its place as the nation’s top-ranked group after an October loss to Texas A&M and an in depth win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide climbed again into the No. 1 spot after defeating Georgia for the SEC title in one in every of their finest total performances of a considerably inconsistent season.
Quarterback Bryce Young, Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner, led the Crimson Tide’s electrifying passing assault, powering Alabama to its seventh playoff look. When Alabama’s offense sputtered, it was Young’s playmaking capability that always stored the group out of hazard. In the efficiency that helped safe his standing as the nation’s prime quarterback, Young threw for greater than 400 yards in opposition to Georgia’s vaunted protection.
Though Alabama could have the finest participant in the sport in linebacker Will Anderson, a voracious move rusher, the Bearcats’ protection is skilled and athletic. Cincinnati’s defensive entrance options two first-team All-A.A.C. defensive linemen, Curtis Brooks and Myjai Sanders, and its secondary has the Jim Thorpe Award winner in (given to the nation’s prime defensive again) Coby Bryant.
Jameson Williams, Alabama’s explosive receiver who transferred from Ohio State, is its major big-play menace with greater than 1,400 receiving yards this season. Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, who figures to be a first-round N.F.L. draft decide, is the type of cornerback who makes opposing quarterbacks look elsewhere for receivers. A defensive again who’s not often thrown on faces a receiver who’s been almost inconceivable to cowl. Who wins?
ORANGE BOWL: 2 MICHIGAN vs. 3 GEORGIA
7:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN
In the unfold period of faculty soccer, when elite offense usually beats elite protection, each Michigan (12-1) and Georgia (12-1) have constructed their identities on their defenses.
Georgia Coach Kirby Smart, who has received a semifinal sport however not a championship in the playoff period, crafted a traditionally good protection in the common season. The Bulldogs allowed simply 9.5 factors per sport as they trampled every group they confronted, apart from an embarrassing sport in opposition to the Crimson Tide by which they gave up 41 factors. Alabama contained the Bulldogs’ star defensive lineman Jordan Davis, who received the Bednarik Award (given to the nation’s finest defensive participant). And Georgia’s protection, made up of elite edge rushers — one in every of whom, Nakobe Dean, received the Butkus Award for the nation’s finest linebacker — didn’t file a sack for the first time this season.
Michigan has the nation’s prime offensive line, which has given its quarterback, Cade McNamara, the safety he has wanted to finish over 64 % of his passes.
The Wolverines’ finest participant, although, is Aidan Hutchinson, the 265-pound defensive finish who’s a projected No. 1 total decide. He has 14 sacks this season, a single-season program file, together with three in opposition to Ohio State. And the consideration that he instructions at the line might make room for gamers like David Ojabo, the Wolverines’ different proficient edge rusher, to make performs.
The Bulldogs have been the nation’s top-ranked group for a lot of the season and reeled off 16 straight wins over two seasons earlier than dropping to Alabama in the SEC title sport. The lone blemish on Michigan’s file was its loss at Michigan State, however a win over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game secured Michigan’s spot in the playoff for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh period. Friday’s matchup at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., will likely be the two groups’ first assembly since 1965.
OTHER BOWL GAMES TO WATCH
FIESTA BOWL: 5 NOTRE DAME vs. 9 OKLAHOMA STATE
1 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Notre Dame (11-1) was nonetheless in the playoff hunt when Brian Kelly, its longtime head coach, left the program to take the Louisiana State head teaching job. Marcus Freeman, the Irish’s defensive coordinator, was promoted quickly after and can attempt to information Notre Dame to its first win in one in every of the prime six New Year’s Day bowl video games in over twenty years. The Irish opened the season with an extra time win over Florida State, and their solely loss was to Cincinnati. But they are going to be with out their main rusher in Kyren Williams and one in every of their prime defensive weapons, security Kyle Hamilton, each of whom announced their plans to skip the bowl sport and enter the N.F.L. draft.
Oklahoma State (11-2) missed the playoff area by a number of inches after Baylor’s goal-line stand halted its try at a go-ahead landing in the Big 12 Championship sport. Before that, the solely loss Coach Mike Gundy’s group had was at Iowa State in October. In a convention not identified for its protection, the Cowboys led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.
ROSE BOWL: 6 OHIO STATE vs. 11 UTAH
5 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Utah (10-3) had by no means reached the Rose Bowl earlier than profitable its first Pac-12 championship in program historical past to earn a berth to the sport in Pasadena, Calif. The Utes captured the convention title with a dominant 38-10 victory over Oregon, simply two weeks after a 38-7 rout of the Ducks in Salt Lake City. Utah’s power on offense is its run sport, highlighted by working again Tavion Thomas and quarterback Cameron Rising, who’s a legit working menace.
Despite an early loss to Oregon, Ohio State’s playoff aspirations endured till late November, when it misplaced to Michigan in a 42-27 blowout. The Buckeyes (10-2) will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time below Coach Ryan Day. Led by the freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud and his prime receiving targets, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Ohio State had one in every of the finest scoring offenses in the nation. Olave and Wilson opted out of the Rose Bowl to arrange for the N.F.L. draft, leaving Smith-Njigba, who led the group in receiving yards this season.
SUGAR BOWL: 7 BAYLOR vs. 8 MISSISSIPPI
8:45 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Mississippi powered its method to a 10-2 season behind one in every of the nation’s most high-powered passing assaults. Quarterback Matt Corral threw for over 3,000 yards to steer the Rebels to their first main bowl look of the Lane Kiffin period.
Baylor has a strong run sport and a protection that stored it in the prime 10 nationally regardless of two losses. After going 2-7 in Coach Dave Aranda’s first season, Baylor went 11-2 in 2021, together with a season-ending victory over Oklahoma State. The Bears’ goal-line cease on fourth down stored the Cowboys out of the playoff and secured the Big 12 title for Baylor.