We are finally here. After the regular season and conference championships were handed out, the College Football Playoff committee met to decide who would make the playoffs. They decided that the Georgia Bulldogs, Michigan Wolverines, TCU Horned Frogs, and Ohio State Buckeyes were the 4 best teams in the country. Now, we have to find a champion. But before that, we had to find the two plays who would play for the national championship.
So, which teams will have a trip to Los Angeles to play for the title?
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Michigan vs #3 TCU
This year’s Fiesta Bowl and first College Football Playoff contained two teams who deserved to be there. The number 2 ranked Michigan Wolverines came into this game with an unbeaten 12-0 record, having beaten rivals Ohio State and won the Big 10 title game in their last two games. Their opponents were the number 3 ranked TCU Horned Frogs. They were making their debut in the CFP and were the losers in the Big 12 Championship game. That was their only loss of the season. Still, Michigan was the favorite, with TCU having the longest odds in CFP history. Could we see a massive upset in Arizona?
Michigan had the opening possession of the game. It went exactly as you would expect a team that was tipped to destroy their opponents would go. Wolverines quarterback J.J McCarthy and company drove the ball down to within the TCU RedZone. However, a penalty on 2nd down on the TCU 6-yard line pushed them back to the 11-yard line. The Wolverines managed to move the ball to the 2-yard line. Then on 4th down, TCU sacked Michigan, handing them possession and ending the Wolverines’ charge. Luckily for them, the Horned Frogs could not do anything with this and quickly punted the ball away.
Then the luck ran out. On the next play of the game, McCarthy was intercepted by TCU defender Bud Clark, who ran the ball into the endzone for a Pick 6 and the lead. TCU would add to their lead on their next drive, as Horned Frogs quarterback (and in my eyes the person who was robbed of the Heisman) Max Duggan ran the ball in for a one-yard touchdown to put TCU 14-0 up.
The Wolverines would put some points on the board from their next drive. Their drive would stall around the 24-yard line, and kicker Jake Moody would kick a 42-yard field goal. Like McCarthy on a previous drive, Duggan would then be intercepted on the first play of his drive. But this play would not end in a pick 6. The Wolverines quarterback would then throw a 50-yard pass to Roman Wilson to take them up to the one-yard line. Surely this would be a touchdown? On the next play, Kalel Mullings would fumble the ball on the one-yard line. The ball was then scooped up by the TCU defense, ending another drive from the Wolverines that should have ended in a touchdown.Embed from Getty Images
TCU would score again before halftime. A 6-yard pass from Duggan to Barber found the endzone to extend the TCU lead. With the last kick of the half, Jake Moody would kick a 59-yard field goal. This score meant that at halftime, the TCU Horned Frogs would have a 21-6 lead over the Michigan Wolverines at halftime. Michigan would need to have the largest comeback in CFP history to win this game.
Michigan needed points. On their first drive of the second half, that is what they got. Unfortunately, it was the same story as the first half. A Wolverine’s drive stalled deep in the TCU RedZone. Moody would kick a 21-yard field goal from this. The Wolverines would need touchdowns to keep them in this game.
Max Duggan would be intercepted on the next TCU drive. This gave Michigan a very good starting position to finally score a touchdown. A 34-yard pass from McCarthy to Ronnie Bell found the endzone to give the Wolverines their first touchdown of the game, and to reduce the Horned Frogs’ lead to 5 points.
This would not last long. On their next drive, TCU Running back Emari Demercado scored a one-yard rushing touchdown. TCU would increase their lead on the next drive. McCarthy would be intercepted again, this time by Dee Winters, who would then run the ball into the endzone for TCU’s second pick 6 of the game. The Horned Frogs then decided to go for a 2-point conversion, which failed.
Michigan would score on their next drive through a 20-yard run by McCarthy. Like TCU, they also decided to go for a 2-point conversion, which also failed. The Horned Frogs’ lead would be increased on their next drive, as Duggan would run for a one-yard touchdown. However, Michigan would respond by scoring a one-yard rushing touchdown of their own. They would also attempt and finally score a 2-point conversion. With the third quarter coming to a close, TCU had an 11-point lead over Michigan.
TCU Running back Emari Demercado would fumble the ball on his own 25-yard line. This again gave the Wolverines an excellent field position to score what would be an important touchdown. From the TCU 18-yard line, Roman Wilson scored an 18-yard rushing touchdown. Michigan would then score another 2-point conversion, making this a 3-point game.
The next TCU drive appeared to struggle to get going. Would this be the end of the scoring streak? Then, after struggling to move the ball, Duggan would throw a 76-yard touchdown, to put TCU 10 points clear. The Horned Frogs would add to this lead on their next drive, through a 33-yard field goal. This gave them a 13-point lead. The Wolverines would score another touchdown with 3 minutes to go to keep them in the game.Embed from Getty Images
Michigan had the final drive of the game. With 45 seconds left on the clock, they had to score a touchdown. The drive never got going and Michigan’s dream was over.
The TCU Horned Frogs had pulled off the biggest upset in the (short) history of the College Football Playoffs. They had beaten the Michigan Wolverines 51-45, to put them into the National Championship. But, who would they play?
Peach Bowl: #1 Georgia vs #4 Ohio State
The Number one-ranked Georgia Bulldogs are the reigning national champions. They had an opportunity to return to the national championship game to try to retain their title. The Bulldogs came into this game unbeaten, having won the SEC championship the last time they played. Their opponents were the number 4 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Unlike the other 3 teams, they had 2 losses on the season and were the only team not to make a conference championship, (due to the way the Big 10 is structured, both Ohio State and Michigan are in the same division). Throughout the season, the Buckeyes were always in the top 4, so that is why they are here. So, with home-field advantage, would the Bulldogs return to the national championship game?
Ohio State had the opening possession of the game and was not able to do anything with this, punting the ball away quickly. On the other hand, the Bulldogs were able to move the ball down the field. However, this drive stalled around the Ohio State 30-yard line. The subsequent 47-yard field missed.
The Buckeyes would score first in this game. A 31-yard pass from Buckeyes quarterback C.J Stroud to Marving Harrison Jr found the endzone. The Bulldogs would quickly reply to this score, with a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Stetson Bennett to Kenny McIntosh to tie things up.
The tie would not last long. On the next drive of the game, Ohio State would retake the lead on a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Miyan Williams. Stetson Bennett would then channel his inner Max Duggan for the next play. He would be intercepted on the first play of the Bulldogs’ drive, giving the Buckeyes excellent field position to potentially go two scores up.
Ohio State would take full advantage of their field position and would increase their lead after C.J. Stroud threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Jr. The Bulldogs would also find the endzone on their next drive to keep them in the game. An 11-yard rushing touchdown from Milton made it a one-possession game.
It would become a tie game soon after. On a Georgia drive that was highlighted by a 52 rush from Kenny McIntosh to bring the Bulldogs into the Ohio State RedZone, it would be a 3-yard rushing touchdown from Bennett which would make the scores level at 21-21.
The Bulldogs would take the lead for the first time in the game after they hit a 32-yard field goal. This lead would not last long as Stroud would throw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Johnson giving the Ohio State Buckeyes a 28-24 lead at halftime.
It would be the Buckeyes who would score first in the second half, with Stroud throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass. We then had a “Festival of Kicking” in Atlanta, with 2 drives ending in punts. Georgia would then attempt a 52-yard field goal. This attempt would be unsuccessful. The next two drives would end the same way for both teams. Successful field goal attempts gave Ohio State an 11-point lead with 10 minutes to go.
A 76-yard pass from Bennett to Arian Smith went for a touchdown. The Bulldogs would then successfully attempt a 2-point conversion, reducing the Buckeyes lead to 3 points. Ohio State would kick another field goal to increase their lead to 6 with 3 minutes to go.Embed from Getty Images
Then, Bennett and company would drive the ball down the field to the Ohio State 10-yard line. From this, Adonai Mitchell would be on the receiving end of a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs into a one-point lead with less than a minute go.
All the Buckeyes needed to do was to score a field goal and they would book their place in the National Championship. On the final drive of the game, they managed to get the ball onto the Bulldogs’ 32-yard line. Then, with 3 seconds left in the clock, Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles had to kick a 50-yard field goal to put this team into the National Championship. He missed, and the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 42-41.
With this win, the Bulldogs stay unbeaten and will face the TCU Horned Frogs in the National Championship game next Monday.