The Games That Will Decide the 2022-23 College Football Playoff

The emergence of NIL and the Transfer Portal has shaken up the College Football world. We’ve never seen such movement of top talent. The 2022-23 College Football Playoff will undoubtedly feature athletes who have moved from one program to another.  

One thing that’s certain: love them or hate them, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and USC will have a say in who will participate in the four-team championship tourney. Of course, you could say that the Earth-shattering matchup between Alabama and Austin Peay on November 19th has the potential to shake things up, Alabama is not likely to stumble until the SEC Championship. Same with Georgia.  

In the CFP’s eight years of existence, 13 teams have made at least one appearance. Alabama leads the way with seven appearances, Clemson earned six berths, Ohio State and Oklahoma have made the dance four times, Georgia and Notre Dame have made a pair of appearances, and LSU, Oregon, Florida State, Michigan State, Washington, Cincinnati, and Michigan have just one appearance. 

The 2022-23 College Football Playoff Will Be Decided in Five Games 

Notre Dame at Ohio State 

Kicking off the list and the season, the Fighting Irish travel to Columbus for a Primetime matchup. Notre Dame got Brian Kelly’d (SEE: Cincinnati in 2009) and Ohio State alumnus Marcus Freeman is at the helm. Last year, Notre Dame was on the outside looking in with an 11-1 record and a CFP ranking of fifth. Ultimately, Cincinnati, who beat them, was chosen. Kelly bolted and the Irish lost an exciting Fiesta Bowl. 

Notre Dame lost Jack Coan, Kyren Williams, and Kyle Hamilton. They do have the potential TE1 in the 2023 NFL Draft in Michael Mayer. Plus, this will be the first time former Buckeye safety Isaiah Pryor will face off against his former team. 

Ohio State had its worst season in nearly a decade, by their standards. The Buckeyes dropped a game to Oregon, which they hadn’t lost to before, and lost to Michigan for the first time since 2011. Coach Ryan Day replaced his offensive line coach as well as almost all of his defensive coaches in response. 

Ohio State returns its star quarterback in C.J. Stroud, running back, TreVeyon Henderson, and potentially the top receiver in the nation in Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The defense will continue to be a question mark until further notice. There are a few young guys who could step up for this defense to impress the new coach. 

These two teams have faced off just six times in history, and Ohio State has won each of the last four. Notre Dame hasn’t beaten the Buckeyes since the FDR administration. In that four-game win streak, it’s looked like Ohio State was on another level, as has usually been the case when Notre Dame has played a formidable opponent over the past 25 years. If they are going to make a run, they’ll have to earn it. They face Ohio State, Clemson, and USC all in one season. They couldn’t ask for a more difficult schedule if they customized it for the new NCAA Football game. 

USC at Utah 

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USC has become the hot new thing…again. Lincoln Riley Brian Kelly’d Oklahoma and has likely taken more advantage of the lax NIL rules and Transfer Portal than anyone.  Last year, USC limped through a 4-8 season, earning the fewest wins in a season since 1991. Riley was eight-years-old.  

USC has had 18 players transfer in. According to 247Sports, they’ve received three of the top ten players in Connor Williams (quarterback from Oklahoma), Mario Williams (wide receiver from Oklahoma), and, most recently, Jordan Addison (wide receiver from Pitt). The Trojans have the potential to crack the CFP by running through a weaker PAC-12. The team that seems like the only one to stand in the way won the conference in 2021 and was a miracle comeback away from winning the Rose Bowl.

Utah had a tale of two seasons: the Charlie Brewer-led Utes and the Cameron Rising-led Utes. In games where Brewer started, the Utes went 1-2. Rising actually came in during the third quarter of that third game and eventually tied it up, where they lost in a third overtime. After that, Rising led Utah to a PAC-12 Championship with a 9-1 mark. It took a ridiculous comeback by Ohio State without its two first-round receivers to upend Rising and the Utes. Utah averaged 38 points per game in games started by Rising, topping 40 points four times.  

If it weren’t for USC raiding the Transfer Portal and becoming a nuclear power overnight, Utah would be the odds-on favorite to defend their title, which you can see at betting sites like as at this titanbet review. These two programs have played just 20 times in history with USC leading 13-7. Since Utah joined the PAC-12, USC has won seven of the 11 games between the two. The winner of this matchup will have the inside track to win the conference and represent in the 2022-23 College Football Playoff 

Notre Dame at USC 

The second uber-important game of each of these teams’ seasons happens to be against one another. Over the past four years, the Irish have owned the classic rivalry. Overall, these two bluebloods have faced off 89 times with Notre Dame leading the series 48-36-5. 

This will be the third time that these two teams will face-off where they both have brand-new coaches. The last two times, were in 1941 when Notre Dame hired Frank Leahy and USC hired Sam Barry (ND won, 20-18), and in 2010 when the Irish hired Brian Kelly and USC hired Lane Kiffin (ND also won, 20-16). 

Each of these teams has questions surrounding them. This game will be one of the most titular matchups on Rivalry Weekend. Considering Notre Dame will end the year without a conference title game, this will be their final shot at impressing the CFP committee. Even if the Irish go 2-1 in their massive matchups against OSU, Clemson, and USC, they could have a real argument. 

Michigan at Ohio State 

For the first time since 2018, Michigan will travel to Columbus. And for the first time since 2011 and just the second time since 2004, Michigan beat Ohio State last year. Morale is high and, despite getting systematically dismantled against Georgia in the CFP, the Michigan faithful have never been louder. 

Michigan employed a two-quarterback approach with Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy. Each quarterback has its own hive of fans. No matter which quarterback Michigan decides to go with, they’ll have a strong cast around him. Blake Corum is among the best in the conference and Donovan Edwards and Andrel Anthony will be a very solid duo out wide. The Wolverines, however, lost their offensive coordinator, Josh Gattis, after Harbaugh flirted with the NFL and returned without a job. Additionally, defensive coordinate Mike McDonald bolted for the NFL. 

After Ohio State lost the CFP Semi-Final to Clemson in 2019, the score was plastered everywhere in Columbus. Ohio State takes the rivalry seriously on a yearly basis so 2021 will prove to add more fire. As has been commonplace in the B1G, the East division will likely be decided in the final week between these two teams. 

Alabama vs Georgia (SEC Championship) 

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This is a bit of a projection but considering how Georgia was able to lock up the division in October last year and the fact that Alabama is still Alabama, it’s a simple balance of probability. Alabama has the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner in Bryce Young and he will likely pick up right where he left off. His weapons will be different this year with a pair of highly-touted transfers in Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell. Plus, the Tide will replace Brian Robinson with transfer running back, Jahmyr Gibbs. 

Defensively, Alabama will continue to be led by the top EDGE in College Football, Will Anderson. As a sophomore, Anderson led the nation in sacks with 17.5 and tackles for loss with 31. If he repeats as the top defender in the nation, he will end up in New York for the Heisman Ceremony. 

Georgia had 15 players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft and five of them in the first round. The Bulldog defense was among the most elite that College Football has seen in a while. Replacing five first-round defenders will be a challenge but Georgia has continued to recruit at a high level. Jalen Carter and Kelee Ringo will be the ones to lead the defending champions. Emphasis on defending. 

The offense last year was okay with Stetson Bennett at the helm. With a defense as good as theirs, they only needed an okay offense. Bennett has the best tight end target in Brock Bowers but the big question will be who replaces Zamir White and James Cook. 

Only one team was able to beat Georgia last year: Alabama. If 2021 is any indication, a loss in this game is not a death knell to a team’s 2022-23 College Football Playoff hopes. If Georgia slips against Oregon or, even more unlikely, an SEC East foe, a loss in Atlanta could result in a non-CFP New Year’s Six game. For Alabama, not one nor two losses will eliminate them. They’d need to drop a game to Texas, Jimbo Fisher would need to avenge his team against Nick Saban’s comments, AND the Tide would need to lose to Georgia. 

Honorable Mention: AAC Championship Game 

Last year, Cincinnati shocked the world by being the first-ever Group of 5 team to crack the final fop four. While they performed admirably, they were out-matched and out-sized. Their stars showed out but when Alabama lines up against a team like Cincinnati, you can tell the difference. 

In 2022, the Bearcats have just as much of a shot at repeating despite losing a number of players to the NFL. They had to go through Houston twice and the Cougars were a formidable opponent. They’ll be even better this year. Houston has an easier route to the AAC Championship game, so they could plow their way to a 12-0 record. 

The AAC is as competitive as any. Houston could slip up against SMU and Memphis. While it’s unlikely another Group of 5 team cracks the 2022-23 College Football Playoff or any in the near future, they’re well worth the watch.  

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