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The Big Ten champion and No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (13-0) face the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs (12-1) Saturday in the Fiesta Bowl of the College Football Playoffs semifinal. Kickoff at State Farm Stadium is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET.
Michigan punched its ticket into the CFP by boat-racing the Ohio State Buckeyes 45-23 in The Game then pummeled the Purdue Boilermakers 43-22 in the Big Ten championship.
TCU backed into the CFP after losing the Big XII championship to the Kansas State Wildcats 32-18 in overtime. The Horned Frogs needed the Utah Utes to beat the USC Trojans in the Pac-12 title game to sneak into the CFP.
Ultimately, there is an oceanic gap between TCU and the other three teams in the CFP. The Horned Frogs are more of a one-man show starring 2022 Heisman finalist QB Max Duggan. Whereas the Wolverines can beat you in a bevy of ways.
Betting Details (DraftKings Sportsbook)
- Moneyline: TCU (+255), Michigan (-305)
- Against the spread (ATS): TCU +7.5 (-110), MICHIGAN -7.5 (-110)
- Total — 58.5 — Over: -110, Under: -110
Eight of the 16 first-round games have been double-digit blowouts since the CFP’s inception in 2014. Michigan was unfortunately on the receiving end of one of those first-round ass whoopings last year.
The defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs bludgeoned the Wolverines 34-11 as 7.5-point favorites in last year’s Orange Bowl.
Most people would assume it’s the 1-seed beating the snot out of the 4-seed. But, six of those eight first-round double-digit victories are in the 2- vs. 3-seed matchups.
I bring this up because I’ve obviously pegged the TCU-Michigan Fiesta Bowl as this CFP’s honorary first-round snoozer. Listen, I’ve made a lot of money backing the Horned Frogs in 2022.
Also, Duggan should be at least the third quarterback taken in the first-round of the upcoming draft behind Alabama’s Bryce Young and maybe Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
However, the Horned Frogs just don’t have the dudes to compete with the Wolverines. First-year TCU coach Sonny Dykes got the most out of this roster but the Horned Frogs returned a ton of production from last year’s squad.
Michigan man Jim Harbaugh has been developing his program for years and Harbaugh is finally living up to expectations. The Wolverines blasted the Buckeyes in their last two meetings.
There’s four- and five-star talent all over the field for Michigan. Plus Harbaugh’s style of football is something I can get behind. My three tenets of winning football include establishing the run, hitting the QB and throwing the deep ball.
Wolverines RB Blake Corum is a 2022 unanimous All-American but had season-ending knee surgery is has been ruled out of the Fiesta Bowl.
Yet Michigan second-string RB Donovan Edwards averages more yards per rush than Corum (7.5-5.9). Edwards went nuts when Corum was sidelined with injury for The Game and conference title game.
He rushed for 216 yards on 22 carries with 2 TDs vs. Ohio State and Edwards gained 185 yards on 25 rushes with 1 TD vs. Purdue in the Big Ten title game.
These body blows from Michigan’s offense allows sophomore QB J.J. McCarthy to connect on deep shots. McCarthy connected on 69-, 75- and 45-yard TD passes vs. the Buckeyes last month.
Furthermore, per Football Outsiders, Michigan’s defense is 34th in sack rate and 10th in pass-down sack rate. TCU’s offensive line is 58th in sack rate and 46th in pass-down sack rate.
There’s a good chance the Horned Frogs are in a lot of passing situations. The Wolverines is second in yards per rush allowed (2.9) and rushing yards per game (85.2). While TCU averages just 4.2 yards per rush (ranked 63rd nationally) and 154.3 rushing yards per game (68th).
All this explains why Michigan’s defense ranks 16th in third-down conversion rate allowed and TCU’s offense is 57th in third-down conversion rate.
Simply put, I’m not sure how the Horned Frogs +7.5 (-110) gets there. Aside from an all-time CFP performance out of Duggan or a complete no-show from Michigan, the Fiesta Bowl should be all Wolverines.
As I said Thursday on the OutKick Bets podcast featuring the homie Grayson Weir, maybe “tease” Michigan’s spread down with either UCLA (-8) in the Sun Bowl or Penn State (+2) in the Rose Bowl depending on when you read this.
That said, I’ll happily lay the points with the Wolverines here expecting an annual first-round CFP rout.
Fiesta Bowl Best Bet: Michigan -7.5 (-110) at DraftKings
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