The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines and No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs will meet in the CFP semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl.
Michigan added to its undefeated regular season with its second straight Big Ten Championship. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs fell just short of their 13th win of the year with a loss in the Big 12 Championship against Kansas State.
Here’s what we can expect to see in the first CFP semifinal game.
Wolverines Look to Avenge 2021 CFP Semifinal Loss
Michigan finds itself back in the College Football Playoff after making its debut last year. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, last year’s semifinal was not kind. The Wolverines similarly entered the CFP as the No. 2 team in the rankings but were outclassed by the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs. Michigan went on to lose 34-11.
Quarterback J.J. McCarthy has done a tremendous job leading the Michigan offense. McCarthy has thrown for over 2,300 yards to go along with 20 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. He will be without star running back Blake Corum, who will miss the remainder of the year due to injury. Corum’s 18 rushing touchdowns was second in the Big Ten. Although his absence greatly impacts the Wolverine offense, Donovan Edwards has stepped up big to fill the role. Edwards finished Michigan’s dominating victory against Ohio State in “The Game” with 216 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The Wolverines are also very sound on the defensive side of the ball. Despite losing last year’s star Aidan Hutchinson to the NFL Draft, Michigan’s defense has been toward the top of the conference all season long. The Wolverines have given up the second-fewest yards per game and third-fewest points per game out of all Big Ten teams. Not to mention, Michigan has five all-conference team members across the three All-Big Ten defenses.
Horned Frogs Hope for CFP History
TCU has already made history heading into the CFP semifinals. With the CFP berth, the Horned Frogs have become just the second Big 12 program to participate in the playoff, joining Oklahoma. On top of that, while the Sooners have been to the semifinals four times, they have failed to advance to the championship game. With that being said, TCU has the opportunity to become the first Big 12 team to participate in the CFP National Championship.
Quarterback Max Duggan took the nation by storm, earning a seat in New York as one of four Heisman Trophy finalists. While he finished second in the voting, Duggan still has his team right where he wants them. The senior quarterback led the Horned Frogs’ offense by throwing for 3,321 yards and scoring 36 total touchdowns. Helping him out were running back Kendre Miller and wide receiver Quentin Johnston, the former of which scored at least one touchdown in every single game this year.
TCU ranks toward the middle of the Big 12 in points allowed per game (25.0 points) and yards allowed per game (385.1 yards). The Horned Frogs will need their big names on the defensive side of the ball to step up big-time if they hope to contain the powerful Michigan offense. Dee Winters and Dylan Horton, who combined for 13.5 sacks over the course of the year, will need to force a lot of pressure in the backfield to force some mistakes for the TCU secondary to pounce on. Namely, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, the Jim Thorpe award winner, will have to create some turnovers to limit Michigan’s scoring opportunities.
First Semifinal Stage All Set
The stage is set for the first CFP Semifinal from the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl.
This is the third time the Fiesta Bowl has hosted a CFP Semifinal. The first featured a 31-0 blowout by the Clemson Tigers against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The second, a rematch between Clemson and Ohio State, saw Clemson advance again with a 29-23 win.
The No. 2 and No. 3 teams have split the eight semifinal matchups, with each team winning four games. However, the No. 3 team has won three straight semifinals. The winner of the No. 2 vs No. 3 semifinal has also gone on to win the National Championship four times, with No. 3 Georgia doing so last year.
No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 TCU will kick off from State Farm Stadium in the CFP Semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve at 4 p.m. on ESPN.