Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
New Year’s Day is the signature day of college football’s bowl season, and there are four games on the holiday to kick off 2021, including the two College Football Playoff semifinals.
The first game at noon ET is the Peach Bowl from Atlanta as No. 9 Georgia visits No. 8 Cincinnati. The unbeaten and American Athletic Conference champion Bearcats seem to have gotten the shaft from the College Football Playoff selection committee as they were dominant this season, especially on defense (16.0 ppg allowed) but were penalized for playing a relatively week schedule. Frankly, if this year’s Cincinnati team didn’t make the playoff, no Group of 5 school ever will unless it expands.
A two-loss season and a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl would be great for many programs but not for Georgia, which had national championship expectations. However, the Dawgs lost by double digits to both Alabama and Florida. Georgia is a 7-point favorite and is 14-1 straight up in its past 15 as a favorite.
At 1 p.m. ET, unranked Auburn faces No. 14 Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl from Orlando. Auburn fired coach Gus Malzahn after the regular-season finale and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will serve as interim coach for this game. He had a shot at the full-time job that eventually went to Boise State’s Bryan Harsin. Northwestern was awful in 2019 but bounced back big in 2020 and reached the Big Ten title game. The Wildcats pushed Ohio State but lost 22-10. Northwestern is -3.5 and is 5-1 ATS in its past six games.
The first CFP semifinal is the Rose Bowl, although it was moved from the actual Rose Bowl to AT&T Stadium outside Dallas for COVID reasons, as No. 4 Notre Dame faces No. 1 Alabama at 4 p.m. ET. The Tide are in the playoff for the sixth time and were utterly dominant this season in winning every game but one by double digits. An Alabama player is going to win the Heisman: Either receiver DeVonta Smith or quarterback Mac Jones. Whichever doesn’t likely finishes a close second.
Notre Dame played in a conference for the first time in school history this year and reached the ACC title game but was routed by Clemson. Still, the Irish’s unbeaten regular season was enough for the committee to keep them in the top four. Alabama is -20, the largest spread ever in a playoff game. The Tide have won an astonishing 74 games in a row as double-digit favorites.
At 8 p.m. ET, it’s a Sugar Bowl matchup in New Orleans between No. 3 Ohio State and No. 2 Clemson. It features what could be the top two picks in the 2021 NFL draft in Tigers QB Trevor Lawrence (he’s a lock to go No. 1) and Buckeyes counterpart Justin Fields. The schools/QBs had a great duel in a national semifinal last season, with Clemson prevailing 29-23. The Tigers were -2.5 then and are -7.5 this time. The Buckeyes have won and covered seven of their past eight as underdogs, although they rarely are in that position.