Consider the previous two weeks of bowl games an appetizer. The college football playoff kicks off on New Year's Eve and the Big Ten is well represented. The Michigan Wolverines (13-0) take on the Horned Frogs of TCU (12-1) in the Fiesta Bowl and the Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) square off against the defending champs, the Georgia Bulldogs (13-0) in the Peach Bowl.
The Wolverines enter the playoffs as the only one of the four teams ranked in the top ten nationally on both sides of the ball. The Buckeyes enter the playoffs looking for redemption after their perfect season came to an abrupt end in their regular-season finale at the Horseshoe against Michigan.
Wins by both Michigan and Ohio State would guarantee the Big Ten the national championship for the first time since the Buckeyes claimed the title with a 42-20 win over Oregon in 2015.
NBC Sports Analysts have taken a good look at both the Fiesta and the Peach Bowls and offer bettors information they can take to the window. Let's cash some tickets.
Vrbo Fiesta Bowl
Michigan Wolverines (-7.5) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (Over/Under 58.5)
Kickoff: December 31 at 4:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: State Farm Stadium – Glendale, Arizona
Bowl Histories: Michigan 21-28, TCU 17-16-1
Series History: This is the first-ever matchup between these two schools.
Note: This is each team's second Fiesta Bowl appearance. Michigan beat Nebraska in 1986, while TCU lost to Boise State in 2010.
Vaughn Dalzell: Michigan Team Total OVER 33.5
TCU's defense allowed 31 or more points in five out of 13 games this season and Michigan's offense is one of the best units the Horned Frogs will see.
J.J. McCarthy had impressive outings over his past three starts (691 total yards, 7 TDs) to keep Michigan undefeated. With the Wolverines' running game, I can see five-plus touchdowns for Michigan with a chance at a National Championship appearance looming.
Brad Thomas: Michigan -7.5
TCU had a great season, and they deserve every accolade. However, they are up against a formidable opponent in this game. Despite losing Blake Corum, Michigan still has Donovan Edwards and the best offensive line in the country. Michigan is a team you do not want to find yourself down against. If TCU comes out flat, this could get out of hand early. I mean, come on. Michigan is first in net points per drive. They score when they have the ball, and their defense knows how to get off the field. I am okay with laying the 7.5 with Michigan.
Eric Froton: Michigan -7.5
Their resume is unassailable as the Wolverines beat every opponent on their schedule with a 96% or greater win expectancy in each, except for one game…Illinois. The Illini's top-ranked scoring defense is allowing just 12.3 points per game and was the one unit all season that was able to stand up to Michigan's vaunted offensive line that won it's second consecutive Joe Moore Award.
TCU has done a pretty incredible tightrope walk through the Big 12 this season, managing to somehow win three of their four games where they had a sub-50% win expectancy. The teams that gave them problems were not the highest caliber of opponent either, with barely bowl-eligible teams Kansas and Baylor giving them problems in addition to being outplayed by Kansas State in both of their meetings. The Baylor and Kansas State games in particular concern me, since HC Chris Klieman has the Wildcats playing a punishing, trench warfare style of offense that wears opponents down. Michigan represents the apex of this philosophy. Can TCU's D that ranks 52nd in rush defense and 53rd in EPA/Play bow up and trade blows with the Wolverines' dominant offensive line in a way similar to Illinois?
Michigan is a brutal matchup for the Horned Frogs with UM having more than enough talent on both sides of the ball to maul them up front, which would spell certain doom for TCU. I do not think TCU can create enough explosive plays to challenge the Wolverines, so I am laying the points and Hailing to the Victors.
Zach Krueger: Michigan -7.5
TCU has been one of the more exciting stories of the season. Although a 31-28 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game nearly knocked them from their spot in the college football playoffs. Nevertheless, they're here now and looking to take down a Michigan team that has run the table to a 13-0 season while averaging over 40 points per game and surrendering just over 13 points per game. Michigan is down a handful of players in this one, with none more meaningful that Blake Corum (247-1463-18), who suffered a knee injury late in the season. Still, Michigan walked into Ohio State earlier this season, and with Corum sidelined, ripped off a dominant 45-23 to hand the Buckeyes their only loss of the regular season.
TCU has a talented roster, with quarterback Max Duggan (3321-30-4) leading the way. Running back Kendre Miller (216-1342-17) and wide receiver Quentin Johnston (53-903-5) will need to be at the top of their game if they hope to pull off the upset, but we've already seen them choke in their biggest game of the season. The Wolverines had a few close calls early in the season, but showed up big in the final month. For as fun as TCU has been, a powerhouse Big 10 team that repeatedly established its dominance within its own conference is hard to fade here. Still chasing his first appearance in a national championship game, I like Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines to end TCU's Cinderella story and cover in this one.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
Georgia Bulldogs (-6.5) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (Over/Under 62.5)
Kickoff: December 31 at 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, Georgia
Bowl Histories: Memphis 5-8, Utah State 6-8
Series History: The lone prior matchup came in the 1993 Citrus Bowl, where Georgia won 21-14.
Note: This is Ohio State's Peach Bowl debut. Georgia has made six prior appearances, going 4-2 including a win over Cincinnati two years ago.
Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 62.5
This is one of, if not, the toughest game to handicap, but everyone will say Georgia -6.5 is the easy bet. I'll settle for the Bulldogs in ML parlays, but I like the Under for my best bet in this game.
Georgia is ranked top 10 in scoring defense and yards allowed per game, while Ohio State is top 15 in both. I see one, if not, both defenses stepping up in this game, so I will take the Under 62.5.
Brad Thomas: Ohio State +6.5
This was a difficult handicap for me. Georgia has held every opponent this season to 22 points or less. They are known for their great defense and seem to be unbeatable. Yet, the Bulldogs do not get much pressure on the quarterback. They could have issues if they allow CJ Stroud time to sit back and find their talented receivers. Ohio State keeps this close with a massive game from Marvin Harrison Jr.; take his receiving yardage Over too. He is going for over 100.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 62.5
HC Kirby Smart has deftly restocked the starting roster after losing the majority of their legendary 2021 defense to the NFL, ranking number one against the rush and fifth against the pass. Their offense is nothing to write off either, as their 7.0 yards per play (4th in FBS) and 3.6 points per drive (7th) averages will attest. In fact, Georgia ranks first overall in net yards per play, net success rate and EPA Margin, showing why they are considered the top overall seed in the CFP Playoff. The Bulldogs were relatively untested all year long, scoring a 98%+ win expectancy in every game except for their rivalry game against Auburn (80%) where they still won 42-10 after pulling away late in the game. It's hard to poke many holes in the way Georgia has played over the past two years, which is why they are the favorites to win the National Championship again.
OSU was cruising along at 8-0 before getting hell from Northwestern in a 21-7 bad weather slog where NU held the Buckeyes' lethal offense to just 283 total yards and 2.9 yards per pass attempt. While that lackluster showing could be explained away as an anomaly, two weeks later Maryland traded shots with Ohio State until they finally pulled away in the fourth quarter after getting quite a scare from the Terps. Those too-close-for-comfort wins proved to be harbingers for the beating Michigan laid on OSU in The Game shortly thereafter.
Can DC Jim Knowles keep QB Stetson Bennett from gashing them with explosive plays like Michigan did? Ohio State is 9-1 to the Over in their last 10 games, while Georgia's defense allowed 20+ points to the far less capable offenses of Kent State, Missouri, Florida and LSU. I think this game clears the current O/U of 62.5 points.
Zach Krueger: Game Total UNDER 62
Ohio State will be without running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams in this one, but true freshman running back Dallan Hayden (102-510-5) filled in admirably down the stretch, rushing for back-to-back 100-yard games when featured as the lead back. As long as Ohio State has C.J. Stroud (they do), they have a chance. A 2022 Heisman Trophy finalist, Stroud threw for 3340-37-6 in what's expected to be his final season with the Buckeyes. Wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. (72-1157-12) and Emeka Egbuka (66-1039-9) stepped right in for the absent Jaxon Smith-Njigba, to help lead the Buckeyes to the second-most points per game, while OSU's defense allowed the 13th-fewest points per game (19.2).
For Georgia, the Bulldogs will run back their title defense with nearly all of its key players from the 2022 season available. Stetson Bennett (3425-20-6), who was somehow a Heisman Trophy finalist as well, could be taking the field without No. 1 receiver Ladd McConkey, who was injured in the SEC championship game and not spotted at the team's practice on December 28th. Fortunately for Bennett, he should have tight ends Brock Bowers (52-726-6) and Darnell Washington (26-417-2), along with their trio of running backs who have each rushed for 500+ yards. Georgia drew the short straw by getting Ohio State in this matchup rather than TCU, making this one a bit trickier to decide. Georgia's defense remains one of the best in the nation, allowing just 12.8 points per game, and have shut down a handful of high-powered offenses this season. While their offense may not go for 40+ against Ohio State, I think they can also limit the Buckeyes' offense, giving the under a chance to hit in this one.
Enjoy the games and enjoy the sweat.