CFP semis: Alabama draws Cincinnati, Michigan gets Georgia

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No. 1 Alabama will face No. 4 Cincinnati while No. 2 Michigan meets No. 3 Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals to be played on New Year's Eve.

Alabama returns to the CFP for the seventh time in eight years, while Georgia is back in the semis for the first time since 2017. Michigan will see the semis for the first time, while Cincinnati makes history as the only Group of 5 program to ever qualify.

The Crimson Tide jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 thanks to their dominant win over Georgia in the SEC title game Saturday. Michigan held firm at No. 2 despite hammering Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten championship in Indianapolis.

Georgia dropped with its loss to set the stage for a matchup between two of the sport's biggest programs against the Wolverines. Those two will square off in the Orange Bowl in South Florida in the night matchup on New Year's Eve. Alabama and Cincinnati meet in the Cotton Bowl in Texas in the late afternoon.

Notre Dame at No. 5 and Ohio State at No. 6 rounded out the top six spots in the final version of the CFP rankings.

Here's the first look at how the semifinal combatants match up.

Cotton Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati

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Team: No. 1 Alabama
Record: 12-1
Conference champions: Yes
Average scoring margin: 21.3 points (5th)
Opponents' combined record: 86-69 (.554)
Points per game: 42.1 (2nd)
Points allowed per game: 20.8 (20th)
Best wins: 41-24 over Georgia, 42-21 vs. Ole Miss

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Team: No. 4 Cincinnati
Record: 13-0
Conference champions: Yes
Average scoring margin: 22.2 points (3rd)
Opponents' combined record: 69-74 (.482)
Points per game: 39 (7th)
Points allowed per game: 16.8 (6th)
Best wins: 24-13 at Notre Dame, 35-20 vs. Houston

Alabama rolls into its seventh CFP in the format's eight-year existence fresh off the best win of the college football season. Bryce Young and the Crimson Tide lit up Georgia's top-ranked defense in a dominant 41-24 victory in the SEC title game Saturday.

The names may change, but the Tide's passing attack once again stole the headlines for Nick Saban's outfit. Young has thrived in his first season as starter and will likely claim the Heisman Trophy next weekend. His most dangerous target this season is Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams, who has emerged as one of the nation's best deep threats in his first campaign in Tuscaloosa.

Cincinnati's distinction as the first Group of 5 team to make the playoff is well deserved after an incredible two-year run, including a perfect 13-0 record this season. The Bearcats showed they could hang with the country's top teams in both last year's narrow bowl loss to Georgia and this year's outstanding road win at Notre Dame.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Jerome Ford give Cincinnati a potent one-two punch in the backfield that ranks among the best in the nation. This semi will have an added layer of motivation for Ford, as the talented rusher began his career at Alabama before transferring to the Bearcats.

Orange Bowl: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia

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Team: No. 2 Michigan
Record: 12-1
Conference champions: Yes
Average scoring margin: 21.6 points (4th)
Opponents' combined record: 84-74 (.531)
Points per game: 37.7 (9th)
Points allowed per game: 16.1 (2nd)
Best wins: 42-27 vs. Ohio State, 42-3 vs. Iowa, 38-17 at Wisconsin

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Team: No. 3 Georgia
Record: 12-1
Conference champions: No
Average scoring margin: 28.3 points (1st)
Opponents' combined record: 86-69 (.554)
Points per game: 38 (8th)
Points allowed per game: 9.8 (1st)
Best wins: 10-3 vs. Clemson, 37-0 vs. Arkansas, 30-13 vs. Kentucky

If you like a hard-nosed, physical brand of football then the semifinal matchup between Michigan and Georgia is must-watch television. The nation's top two defensive units should keep this a low-scoring affair.

Michigan became the first team ever to make the CFP semis after not being ranked in the preseason AP Poll and enters the playoff as the hottest team in the country. The Wolverines used an incredible win over Ohio State to leap into the top four and cemented their place with a dominant win over Iowa in the Big Ten title game Saturday.

Jim Harbaugh's outfit runs the ball for more yards per game than any other Power 5 team, riding the combo of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum to 31 rushing touchdowns on the season. The game-wrecker on defense is pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who has 14 sacks and is likely to be a top-3 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

Georgia was unquestionably the country's most impressive team throughout the college season, but its performance Saturday against Alabama raises some alarm bells. The defense turned in a season for the ages, allowing less than a touchdown per game, but couldn't slow down Young and the Crimson Tide's passing attack.

CFP semis: Alabama draws Cincinnati, Michigan gets Georgia
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