College Football Playoff: ESPN predicts Georgia’s outcome

Georgia is headed back to Atlanta to play in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl where they’ll take on No. 4 Ohio State on Dec. 31, 2022. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and ESPN will broadcast the game. On Monday, ESPN provided its prediction on how the matchup between the Dawgs and Buckeyes will unfold.

Georgia is primed to defend its national title and opens the CFP with a virtual home game. Quarterback Stetson Bennett, defensive lineman Jalen Carter, tight end Brock Bowers and the Bulldogs look unstoppable, having won eight straight games by 10 points or more since a 26-22 Oct. 1 scare at Missouri.

Ohio State has new life after the Michigan loss, and it’s notable that the Buckeyes’ only CFP championship came in a season (2014) where they were largely counted out because of injuries. Still, Georgia seems like a better version of Michigan, which repeatedly gashed the Buckeyes for long touchdowns. Ohio State starts quickly with a long touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison Jr., but Bennett and the Dawgs take control down the stretch and advance to the national title game.

Prediction: Georgia 38, Ohio State 28

ESPN has Michigan beating TCU 38-31 in the CFP semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, then breaks down the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T.

After 41 years without a national title, Georgia can go back-to-back and establish itself as the sport’s signature program. The Bulldogs dominated Michigan in last year’s semifinal, a game that drove the Wolverines throughout the offseason.

Michigan is a different team — more athletic at certain spots and more reliant on younger players, namely McCarthy and Edwards. The Wolverines will be much more competitive this time, pacing Georgia into the third quarter. But a McCarthy turnover swings the game to the Bulldogs, who lean on Bennett’s big-game expertise and their three-headed running back onslaught to pull away. Linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson gives McCarthy a heavy dose of pressure down the stretch as the Dawgs secure another championship.

Prediction: Georgia 37, Michigan 24

Michigan opened as a 9.5-point favorite over TCU and Georgia opened as a 6.5-point favorite over Ohio State. The Bulldogs are now 79-15 under seventh-year head coach Kirby Smart, with a 48-9 record in conference play. Georgia is 1-0 all-time versus Ohio State, having beat the Buckeyes 21-14 in the 1993 Citrus Bowl. Head coach Kirby Smart said this matchup is not about conferences.

“I think it’s no different,” Smart said. “It’s not about the Big Ten and the SEC. It’s about football, right? It boils down to the line of scrimmage. It boils down to turnovers, explosive plays. It’s not really about the 2 conferences in those games. You may need to make it about that, but really it’s about who plays better. Because I also coached at Alabama when Ohio State absolutely destroyed us one CFP semifinal game and, you know what? They played better. They were more explosive and they didn’t have turnovers and we did at Alabama. So it really boils down to how you play, not who you play.”

“I think the fun is in the preparation,” Smart said of playing in the CFP semifinal for the second time in five years. “The fun is in the atmosphere that you get to play in. I think when you get to talk about CFP it is a tremendous opportunity. No matter where you play, no matter where you are in the playoffs you have a grand opportunity. We have a very mature team, we have great leaders, I have full faith and confidence that our guys will handle it the right way. They are also going to be down there for almost a week, so it is not to think that if we were having a game here and it was a big game in Athens for a week our guys all prepare different ways. They spend their time in different locations. I have a lot of confidence that the seniors and the older players will have a good time, a good experience, and when it is time to be focused, be focused. You can’t focus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and be at your best. We are trying to build to a moment of truth and built that kind of energy and focus where we need it to be at game time.”

Georgia will be making its 60th bowl game appearance, second-most of any program and the team is 35-21-3 all-time in bowl games. Georgia has the longest active bowl streak in the country at 26 consecutive bowl appearances.

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