The College Football Playoff is what we anticipate throughout the entire college football season. Now, the matchups have been determined and the four teams are preparing for epic matchups on December 31st, 2021, for a chance to compete in the National Championship on January 10th, 2022.

The four teams found deserving of an attempt at a National Championship by the college football playoff committee are none other than the four best teams in the country.

  1. Alabama (12-1)
  2. Michigan (12-1)
  3. Georgia (12-1)
  4. Cincinnati (13-0)

Two newcomers to the College Football Playoff have emerged.

Starting with the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats, the University of Cincinnati are the only remaining undefeated team in the country. Despite struggling at times this season against far less superior talent, the Bearcats pulled out the wins and have moved forward. Led by NFL hopefuls on both sides of the football, quarterback Desmond Ridder has been the key factor on offense while defensive end Myjai Sanders has been the defensive leader.

The Michigan Wolverines, having finished their season at 12-1 as the Big Ten Conference Champions with a single four-point loss to Michigan State, have been led mostly by their defense who have been extraordinary pass rushers and game breakers. Aidan Hutchinson has been a game wrecker from his defensive end spot and David Ojabo has been just as effective from the other side. While Michigan has relied heavily on their running attack on offense, the emergence of quarterback Cade McNamara has been refreshing this season and the x-factor to lift Michigan over the rest of the Big Ten.

Two SEC powerhouses make their return

The defending National Champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, have returned to the College Football Playoff, yet again, after winning the SEC Championship over the Georgia Bulldogs. Their single loss, a game-winning kick for Texas A&M as time expired, speaks volumes to the inconsistency that the Crimson Tide have played with this season. Sophomore quarterback Bryce Young has cemented his case for the Heisman Trophy while defensive end Will Anderson appears primed to bring the pressure that the Alabama defense will need in the playoffs.

The Georgia Bulldogs appeared unstoppable, thanks to their impressive defense that played arguably the greatest regular season in college football history. However, once matched up in the SEC Conference Championship game against Alabama, the Bulldogs were overwhelmed by the pressure that the Crimson Tide were able to generate on quarterback Stetson Bennett, and the hurry-up offense that Alabama ran against Georgia was able to limit Georgia from utilizing their depth. Still, with all of the talent on the team, they are very dangerous when they can protect their quarterback.

College Football Playoff: How the four teams match up against each other

Dec 4, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) throws a pass against the Houston Cougars in the first half during the American Athletic Conference championship game at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The four teams now lined up for a chance to compete for the National Championship in the College Football Playoff. This year, the teams will be competing in the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl for the semi-finals games on December 31st, 2021, before moving on to compete for a National Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana, at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10th, 2022.

Using our professional-style grading formula, here are how the top four teams match-up against each other:

SchoolQuarterbacksRB’sWR/TE’sOff LineDef LineLB’s DB’s K/P’sOverall
(1) Alabama (12-1)Bryce Young (A)BB+BB+A-B-C+88
(4) Cincinnati (13-0)Desmond Ridder (B+)B+BC+B+C+B+C-85
(3) Georgia (12-1)Stetson Bennett (C+)ABA-A-ABA-89
(2) Michigan (12-1)Cade McNamara (B)A-B-A-ABBB-88
How the College Football Playoff teams match up against each other.

What this table means for the college football playoff

Our formula prioritizes certain position groups and weighs grades into a complete overall grade based on the team, talent, depth, coaching, and personnel. Using this formula allows us to compare position groups against relevant position groups while assessing the relevance of each team.

According to our formula, Georgia is the very slight favorite in the playoff with an 89 overall rating. Alabama and Michigan are very close behind, both coming in at 88 overall ratings. The Cincinnati Bearcats, however, are projected to lose in the first round with an overall of 85.

SeasonChampion QBRunner Up QBPlayoff QBPlayoff QB
2020Mac JonesJustin FieldsIan BookTrevor Lawrence
2019Joe BurrowTrevor LawrenceJalen HurtsJustin Fields
2018Trevor LawrenceTua TagovailoaKyler MurrayIan Book
2017Tua TagovailoaJake FrommBaker MayfieldKelly Bryant
2016Deshaun WatsonJalen HurtsJake BrowningJT Barrett
2015Jacob CokerDeshaun WatsonConnor CookBaker Mayfield
2014Cardale JonesMarcus MariotaBlake SimsJames Winston

It can be noted from previous Playoff performances that oftentimes the best quarterback wins the Playoff. Last season, that was Mac Jones – who has seen the most success in the NFL out of all the rookie quarterbacks so far. The season before that, it was the Heisman winner, Joe Burrow. Before that, it was the freshman Trevor Lawrence edging Tua Tagovailoa. This season, it is Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

College Football Playoff – Orange Bowl: (3) Georgia Vs (2) Michigan

This match-up will be tremendous for the college football playoff. The Michigan Wolverines and the Georgia Bulldogs are built very similar in style to each other. Both teams prefer to run the ball and lean on their defenses tremendously to win ball games. Both teams have a potential liability at the quarterback position, although both players have flashed signs of greatness and stepped up in big moments.

The two-headed monster out of the Michigan backfield will be the attack for the Wolverines, who lean heavily on Hassan Haskins (1288 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns) and Blake Corum (1082 scrimmage yards, 12 touchdowns). They will be going against the Georgia defense, who allowed just 6.9 points per game over the 2021 regular season.

Georgia’s strength has not been on the offense this season, which honestly has been bailed out at times by their legendary defense. This defense had not allowed more than twenty points in a game until the SEC Conference Championship and pitched three shutouts in 2021. The attack will have to be balanced and Georgia will need to find a way to keep Michigan from pinning their ears back and charging after the quarterback.

Strength on Strength: Michigan Wolverines Run Game Vs Georgia Bulldogs Front Seven

Michigan has leaned on their run game tremendously over the course of the entire season. Running back Hassan Haskins ran for five touchdowns against Ohio State to close out the regular season while adding two more in the Conference Championship against Iowa. They’ve averaged 223 yards and three touchdowns rushing per game while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

The Georgia defense, on the other hand, is allowing just 82.2 rushing yards per game through 13 games. Even against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, the Bulldogs held the Crimson Tide to 76 yards rushing on 22 carries from their running backs. They’ve been able to rotate their defensive personnel extremely well and keep bodies fresh on the field.

In the SEC Championship, Alabama was able to run tempo at times to keep Georgia from running their defensive rotations, which allowed them to have some success. Michigan oftentimes runs the same style of tempo. Expect the Wolverines to use it whenever they can.

Weaknesses to Exploit: Georgia QB Stetson Bennett

The key to the Georgia Bulldogs in this game will be protecting Stetson Bennett from the ferocious Michigan pass rush, led by Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. Between the two edge rushers, Michigan has 24 sacks. They’ve been tough to defend and have embarrassed mediocre quarterbacks all season long.

Georgia will have to get some of its key players involved in this game. Between freshman tight end Brock Bowers and star wide receiver George Pickens, the Bulldogs will need to find them early and often. Otherwise, Michigan has the personnel to destroy the Georgia front all game long – much like Alabama did.

College Football Playoff – Cotton Bowl: (4) Cincinnati Vs (1) Alabama

As much as some people have anticipated Cincinnati matching up in the college football playoff, this is probably the best chance that they have to advancing. The Alabama Crimson Tide has been extremely inconsistent all season long. If they aren’t careful, the Bearcats could cause some confusion in the college football playoff rather quickly.

Desmond Ridder is making his case for the NFL to play as a quarterback professionally. He’s done a phenomenal job utilizing his weapons and leaning on the former Alabama running back, Jerome Ford, who hopes to punish his former school. Ridder has thrown for 3190 yards and 30 touchdowns this season while amassing a 164.8 efficiency rating. His star receiver, Alec Pierce, and two effective tight ends, Leonard Taylor and Josh Whyle, this offense is explosive and threatens the deep play on any given snap.

Strength on Strength: Alabama Crimson Tide Receivers Vs Cincinnati Bearcats Secondary

The strength of the Alabama Crimson Tide this season has been in their quarterback, Bryce Young, and their passing game. In this matchup, star receiver John Metchie is expected to miss entirely after suffering a knee injury in the SEC Championship game. That loss could be an issue for Alabama, especially considering that the strength of the Cincinnati defense is in their secondary.

The Bearcats have two potential NFL cornerbacks, Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant, and a star safety in Bryan Cook. They’ve done an excellent job stuffing passing attacks this season, too, allowing a 53.4 completion percentage this season and just 167.5 yards per game.

Alabama will need a receiver to step up and assist Jamison Williams from taking all of the attention. Ideally, that would be Ja’Corey Brooks. However, tight ends Jahleel Billingsley and Cameron Latu will have to step up and become targets in the passing game more consistently.

Weakness to Exploit: Cincinnati Offensive Line

The Cincinnati offensive line is the weakest unit, in my opinion, in the entire college football playoff. For the Bearcats and Desmond Ridder, that’s terrifying when lining up against an Alabama front featuring Will Anderson.

Anderson has amassed 82 total tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, and 14 sacks this season. But, if you’re Cincinnati, it’s not just Anderson that you are worried about. Phidarian Mathis has seven sacks this season from his three-tech. Dallas Turner has 5.5 sacks. The linebackers, Henry To’o To’o and Christian Harris, can both blitz effectively.

Cincinnati tends to play 12 personnel with Leonard Taylor and Josh Whyle, which they might have to stay with and try to protect Ridder throughout the game. Alabama will bring lots of pressure from lots of different places and it’s going to be difficult for even the veteran quarterback to keep up with throughout four quarters.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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