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Commentary: Georgia got a tougher semifinal matchup when Ohio State made the cut

Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey celebrates a touchdown with his teammates.
Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey, left, celebrates a touchdown with his teammates in the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship against LSU on Saturday in Atlanta.
(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)
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It was all there for a Hollywood tale — the USC Trojans making the College Football Playoff for a chance to play for a national championship just down the road at SoFi Stadium.

But it was not meant to be. The Utah Utes saw to that Friday night, and so now the four teams vying for a January trip to Los Angeles will carry no local flavor.

No. 1 Georgia, the defending national champions at 13-0, will face No. 4 Ohio State, 11-1, in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

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No. 2 Michigan, the champions of the Big Ten at 13-0, will take on No. 3 Texas Christian, 12-1, in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., also on New Year’s Eve at 1 p.m.

Could Ohio State and Michigan pose serious challenges as Georgia pushes to repeat as champions?

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about the College Football Playoff, UCLA and USC’s bowl games will play and the Heisman Trophy race.

Dec. 4, 2022

Here are five takeaways on the CFP field announced Sunday:

The CFP selection committee got it right

TCU running back Kendre Miller carries for a touchdown in the second half of the Big 12 Conference championship.
TCU running back Kendre Miller carries for a touchdown in the second half of the Big 12 Conference championship against Kansas State on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

By the end of championship Saturday, it was clear that this season’s national title chase could have been solved just fine by the old Bowl Championship Series. Georgia and Michigan finished as the only 13-0 teams, giving the CFP selection committee nothing to debate about the top two teams in its final rankings (the Bulldogs, as defending champions who easily handled the Wolverines in last year’s CFP semifinal, were a no-brainer at No. 1, too).

The committee then had three teams to consider for the final two spots: TCU, 12-1 and coming off a 31-28 overtime loss Saturday to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game; Ohio State, 11-1 and still recovering from Michigan’s 45-23 win in Columbus last weekend; and Alabama, 10-2 and riding a three-game winning streak.

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The CFP had never selected a two-loss team to the playoff, and this Alabama team simply didn’t have the high-quality wins to overcome razor-thin losses at Tennessee and Louisiana State. The Crimson Tide’s best wins were Texas and Mississippi State, while TCU boasted a win over No. 10 Kansas State which just edged the Horned Frogs and Ohio State won at No. 11 Penn State.

I can’t imagine Alabama, despite Nick Saban’s pleading publicity tour Saturday, received much consideration from the committee. The Crimson Tide will miss the playoff for just the second time in nine years.

That left a debate between TCU and Ohio State for which team would be seeded third and draw Michigan in the Fiesta. The committee got this one right, too, choosing not to effectively punish the Horned Frogs for playing in their conference championship game while the Buckeyes sat at home cheering against them.

L.A. could play host to a Michigan-Ohio State rematch in the CFP final

Michigan receiver Cornelius Johnson plays against Ohio State.
Michigan receiver Cornelius Johnson plays against Ohio State during a game on Nov. 26 in Columbus, Ohio.
(Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

The committee had the option to pair up the Wolverines and Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl but chose correctly to force Ohio State to beat a great Georgia team in Atlanta to earn a revenge game against its bitter rival.

Plus, staging a rematch of “The Game” in the semifinal would have devalued what was the most emphatic regular season result of the season. The CFP expansion to 12 teams in 2024 is going to make those massive “Game of the Century”-type regular season games less meaningful as it is. There was no reason to do that with the second-to-last four-team playoff field.

But if Ohio State upsets Georgia and Michigan beats TCU, it would set up a scintillating scene at SoFi Stadium. And L.A. would take one more step toward being a Big Ten city.

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Ohio State is not the one Georgia would choose to play

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud plays against Michigan.
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud plays against Michigan during a game Nov. 26, in Columbus, Ohio.
(Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

If Las Vegas oddsmakers could have picked the probable national championship game a month ago, it would have certainly been Georgia and Ohio State. This game, pitting two of the most talented teams in the country, should be amazing to watch, with SEC and Big Ten bragging rights up for grabs.

The Buckeyes under Ryan Day are built more like a Southern team than a Midwestern team. It’s pretty clear Ohio State has been trying to put itself on the level of the top SEC teams once it had full command of the Big Ten under Urban Meyer (of course, it no longer has that stranglehold on its own league thanks to Michigan’s back-to-back wins).

Ohio State is probably more likely to beat Georgia than Michigan just based on what it can do in the passing game with quarterback C.J. Stroud and wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka. Although the Wolverines certainly have provided Kirby Smart a blueprint for how to contain the Buckeyes.

Michigan has had Georgia on its mind, but it needs to put that aside

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett points while teammates stand behind him.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, center, gestures to the crowd during the trophy presentation of the Southeastern Conference Championship game on Saturday in Atlanta.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

A year ago, Michigan’s entire purpose was to beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011. The Wolverines did that and then just happened to be rewarded with a trip to the playoff, where they were promptly pummeled by Georgia, 34-11, in the Orange Bowl.

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This season, Michigan maintained its focus on the Buckeyes and winning in Columbus for the first time since 2000. But, after their big win over Ohio State, the Wolverines kept saying they were just getting started. And that unquestionably meant that they have been motivated by earning another shot at the Bulldogs and winning the program’s first national championship since 1997.

Michigan better square its gaze very quickly on TCU, though. The Wolverines, who started Sunday as 9-point favorites, will be in for a major fight with the Horned Frogs. Michigan will be in unfamiliar position as a clear favorite in a game of this magnitude and will have to stay in attack mode to avoid the upset.

Michigan surges in the second half to defeat Purdue in the Big Ten championship game ahead of a likely No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff.

Dec. 3, 2022

Michigan fans would take over SoFi

A general overall view of SoFi Stadium during a game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.
A general overall view of SoFi Stadium during a game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 30 in Inglewood.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

In the second weekend of the 2018 NCAA tournament in L.A., Michigan fans swarmed Staples Center, giving the Wolverines a major home court advantage that they rode to a trip to the Final Four.

There are thousands of Michigan alumni in Southern California who would be happy to give the Wolverines some extra juice Jan. 9 if they can get past TCU.

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