We've done it. We've made it to the final CBS Sports HQ newsletter of 2022. By the time you read my words again, it will be 2023, and you'll probably still be a little hungover. I won't be. One of the downsides to covering college football as I do is that while most of the world is getting hammered on New Year's Eve, I'm at home or in a press box watching football and working.
This year is no different, as the College Football Playoff semifinals occur on New Year's Eve. You know I've got picks for both of those games for you in today's newsletter, which also happens to be the final Football Friday of the season. Toast to their memory tomorrow night too. Oh, and read these stories.
And before you sing "Auld Lang Syne," let's check out this weekend's picks.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: The under is 9-3 in Clemson's last 12 bowl games.
- The Pick: Under 61 (-110)
The first New Year's Six bowl kicks off Friday night in Miami with two orange teams. It's the orangest Orange Bowl possible, as the brighter orange of Clemson clashes with the creamier orange of Tennessee. I hope both teams come out in all-orange uniforms to make things fun and confusing. Whatever color these teams wear tonight, I'm not expecting is as many points as the total suggests.
An important thing to remember about bowl games (even major bowl games like this one, so long as they aren't College Football Playoff games): there are opt-outs and transfers. Often the teams you see in these games are far from full strength. That is the case in tonight's matchup.
Neither team will have its starting quarterback. If you're a Clemson fan, you're happy about this because Cade Klubnik is playing. Vols fans aren't nearly as pleased. Joe Milton is filling in for the injured Hendon Hooker, who was having one of the best seasons of any player in the country. I do not expect either offense to flourish. Clemson's offensive problems run far deeper than DJ Uiagalelei and won't be solved by his absence. And Milton has one of the strongest arms you'll ever see. It's just not very accurate, and accuracy is quite important in Tennessee's offense.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model is a big fan of the under as well as one side of the spread tonight.
💰 The Picks
🏈 College Football Playoff
The Pick: Michigan -7.5 (-110) -- While there's no question TCU earned its place in the playoff, I make no secret of my belief that the Horned Frogs are the "weakest" of the four teams in the field, at least from a power rating standpoint. TCU played the most one-score games this season out of the four. This is a team that found itself in a lot of close games and did the smart things good teams do to win them.
That's not a knock on TCU, but it is a concern about what might happen when the Frogs run into elite competition. While TCU played a stronger overall schedule than Michigan, what you do to the competition you face isn't considered often enough. Michigan may have played a weak nonconference slate, but it also beat Penn State and Ohio State by a combined 46 points. You can argue TCU didn't play anybody as good as those teams this season.
Michigan is built similarly to Kansas State in terms of its style of play and philosophy, and we saw how much trouble the Wildcats gave the Frogs this season. The difference? Michigan is far more talented. I can't trust TCU to keep up in this one.
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State, Saturday, 8 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 62 (-110) -- I wonder if you were to ask Georgia if it would've preferred being able to choose which semifinal location it could play in, or its semifinal opponent, which option it would've taken. I would bet they'd have taken the latter, because getting Ohio State in the semifinal won't be fun. It's one of the best offenses in the country.
Of course, Georgia has an elite defense. It's not as good as the one we saw win a national title last year, but it's still the best in the country. But Ohio State's defense shouldn't be overlooked, either. While the Buckeyes were burned for explosive plays in their loss to Michigan, they still sport one of the best pass rushes, and that will come in handy here
I think Georgia wins because Georgia is a bigger, faster Michigan, and we know how much trouble the Buckeyes have had with Michigan. I just don't know if Georgia can pull away, so I'm avoiding the spread. Instead, I'm going to show both defenses the respect they deserve because the total for this game is too high.
49ers at Raiders, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: 49ers -9.5 (-110) -- This pick is almost as much about karma as it is analysis. I'm not going to argue that Derek Carr is some kind of incredible QB. He isn't. The problem is I don't think Josh McDaniels learned anything from his failures in Denver. He's the same coach now as he was then.
McDaniels continues to pound square pegs into round holes. If he doesn't have the right personnel to fit the style of offense he wants, he doesn't change his plan. Meanwhile, Kyle Shanahan has shown an ability to win with different QBs. He's down to Brock Purdy and still winning games. Not only is there a massive talent gap between these teams, there's an even larger coaching gap.
Vikings at Packers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Vikings +3 (-110) -- The Packers have won three straight games against a tanking Bears team, a Rams team down to second and third stringers everywhere you look, and a Dolphins team that played an entire half with a concussed QB, but I'm supposed to believe the Packers are back? The same Packers team that was 4-8 before this little "hot" streak?
Excuse me if I remain skeptical. I have not been shy about my belief that the Vikings are nowhere near as good as their record suggests, but they're the same Vikings team that beat the Packers 23-7 to start the season. And you want to give me points with them? Sure, yeah, all right. I'll take them.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: If you're looking for some additional Friday night action, the Projection Model has an A-graded play in tonight's game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves.