The College Football Playoff welcomes a relatively newcomer to the scene this season as Number 2 Michigan and Number 3 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl for a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship. The Wolverines and the Horned Frogs should provide one of the most intriguing matchups we’ve seen this college football season, and all the stakes are on the line.
With Georgia the reigning champions and Ohio State making the CFP in three of the last four seasons, TCU is making its playoff debut and Michigan made its first playoff appearance last season. The showdown between the Wolverines and Horned Frogs will also be the first time the two programs have played in football, and you can’t ask for higher stakes or a better setting for the first game of the series.
Michigan’s 13-0 campaign was bolstered by brutal efficiency on both sides of the ball. The Wolverines are one of only two teams in the top 10, both offensively and defensively. This all-around dominance was fully showcased when Michigan went to Columbus in a 45-23 loss to rival Ohio State, giving eighth-year head coach Jim Harbaugh his second win in years against the Buckeyes.
But while Harbaugh spent nearly a decade getting the program to that peak by beating Ohio State, winning Big Ten championships and making the College Football Playoffs, Sonny Dykes rose to the top of the sport in his first season with the TCU. 5-7 in 2021, TCU finished the regular season 12-0 before falling in overtime to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game. This seven-win comeback was fueled by one of the most explosive offenses in the country, a Heisman Trophy finalist on point guard at Max Duggan, and a team that showed stamina in the tough spots with a 5-1 record in single-scoring games.
Michigan’s dominance over their opponents has made it a favourite, but there’s a lot more to stand out about this matchup before we pick the game.
Michigan and TCU: What You Need to Know
Donovan Edwards carries the burden: Michigan was a Heisman Trophy nominee before effectively ending the 2022 campaign with a knee injury against Illinois on November 19 as he ran back to Blake Corum. Despite being eligible for the regular season finale against Ohio State, Donovan Edwards only recorded two carry-overs as he took over his best running back duties. Despite missing the Big Ten Championship Game, Corum is good enough to get into the top 10 in both categories with 1,463 yards and 18 goals.
Having Corum is preferable to not being on the College Football Playoff roster, but the good news is that Edwards looks set to take the challenge of leading the Wolverines’ rushing efforts. Edwards rushed for 216 yards and scored two goals in the win against Ohio State, then added 185 yards on the field in the Big Ten Championship Game against Purdue. When Michigan’s offense hits all the reels, it punishes opponents at the point of attack and opens up space for an explosive back to deliver a bounce game. If Michigan is to control the game while in possession of the ball, Edwards needs to maintain the form he showed after Corum’s injury.
A unique test for Michigan’s defense: Michigan has faced a pair of dangerous pass attacks in their last two games, but TCU presents a whole new type of challenge for the Wolverines. Duggan is one of the best deep-ball setters in the country and ranks first in FBS for percentage of completion and number of goals on passes more than 20 yards away. He’s also prolific, scoring three or more goals in eight of his 12 starts this season, and has a pair of dynamic wide receiver options in deep threat specialist Quentin Johnston and do-it-all multi-purpose star Derius Davis. Kendre Miller and the Horned Frogs have an offense that has many different ways to tell the defense apart, after one of the fastest seasons TCU has seen since Ladanian Tomlinson.
TCU with many close gaming experiences: The Horned Frogs’ magical run includes multiple second half comebacks and the ability to find a way to win in close matches throughout the regular season. TCU won 5-0 in single-scoring games throughout the regular season, and Duggan nearly recorded another comeback as he led an injury-filled offense on the field to work overtime against Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game before falling short.
Michigan, on the other hand, doesn’t have much experience, even in close matches. The Wolverines lead all FBS teams with an average margin of 26.7 points per game and have had only two games determined by a single score all season: a 34-27 win against Maryland earlier in the season and a 19-17 against Illinois Blake Corum has a knee injury, including the . If the bookies are right in their predictions, we may be looking at close competition late in the game where TCU will have the experience advantage.
Watching the Fiesta Bowl live
History: Saturday, December 31st | Time: 16:00 ET
Location: State Farm Stadium — Glendale, Arizona
TELEVISION: ESPN | Live broadcast: fuboTV (Try for free)
Fiesta Bowl prediction, picks
Featured Game | Michigan Wolverines vs. TCU Horned Frogs
If betting market projections are played on the field, TCU has the advantage of playing close games. But history says the College Football Playoff semifinals are not close matches. Of the 16 semi-finals played since the format was introduced in 2014, only three have ended in single digits, and nine of those 16 games have resulted in 20 or more points. I don’t predict Michigan will win by three goals, but their handling of the spread seems to be in line with their mastery of brutal efficiency and the historical trend of how these games were played. Forecast: Michigan -7.5
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