Playoff mega-preview: Breaking down Bama-Cincy and Michigan-Georgia

    Bill Connelly is a staff writer for

After 800-something games, a ton of early upsets and plot twists, and an increasingly fraught and unpredictable bowl season, the main event of the 2021 college football campaign is on deck. The College Football Playoff semifinals — No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (3:30 p.m. ET) and No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia in the Capital One Orange Bowl (7:30 p.m. ET) — kick off on Friday on ESPN and the ESPN app.

While Alabama is a playoff mainstay, the other three teams have combined for just one previous CFP appearance. From Cincinnati’s rise to Michigan’s redemption to Kirby Smart and Georgia’s ongoing quest to finally surpass former mentor Nick Saban and Alabama, the storylines have been legion. Now we get to find out who will actually reach the national title game. Here’s what you need to know about both games.

Alabama vs. Cincinnati

How has Bama’s offense changed in 2021 (and which one will show up at Jerry World)?

Bill O’Brien took on a thankless job in replacing Steve Sarkisian as Alabama’s offensive coordinator this season; there was nowhere to go but down after Bama fielded one of the greatest offenses of all time last season. O’Brien inherited a wonderfully modernized offense, complete with all the bells and whistles and motions and RPOs that you could ask for, but the lineup would be without 2020’s No. 1 (wide receiver DeVonta Smith), No. 3 (quarterback Mac Jones) and No. 5 (running back Najee Harris) Heisman Trophy finishers, not to mention the Outland Trophy and Rimington Trophy winners up front in Alex Leatherwood and Landon Dickerson, respectively. Alabama is a talent factory and always has stars to replace, but the Crimson Tide don’t always have to replace that much.

Alabama has used motion and RPOs a similar amount this fall, according to Sports Info Solutions, but without nearly as effective an offensive line (and, therefore, a run game), the Tide have been far more one-dimensional.

Source: Read Full Article