What to know about the New Year's Day college football semifinals
The College Football Playoff semifinal games are set to take place on Monday, bringing an end to the month of speculation and controversy about the final four teams since they were selected.
Michigan, ranked first by the CFP committee, plays No. 4 Alabama in the Rose Bowl. No. 2 Washington plays No. 3 Texas in the later Sugar Bowl game.
The winners of the Alabama-Michigan and Texas-Washington games will meet for the national title game in Houston on Jan. 8.
Michigan vs. Alabama
It's a matchup between two storied teams with huge fan bases.
Nick Saban, Alabama's head coach since 2007, is seeking his seventh national title with the team. Crimson Tide's strength comes from quarterback Jalen Milroe and linebacker Dallas Turner, but commentators say the team is among Saban's least cohesive. Michigan, led by quarterback J.J. McCarthy, is gunning for its first national title since 1997. Coach Jim Harbaugh is taking the Wolverines to their third consecutive semifinal, but has yet to make it to a national championship game with the team.
Kickoff of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., is at 5 p.m. ET
Washington vs. Texas
The game marks the Texas Longhorns' first CPF appearance and the Washington Huskies' second after its 2016 showing. The teams last met in the 2022 postseason, with Washington beating Texas 27-20 in the Alamo Bowl.
The Huskies are led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Penix Jr. Coach Kalen DeBoer is looking for his first NCAA title win after steering the Huskies through an undefeated season. Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is having a career comeback after his 2015 firing from USC for alcohol abuse. He will lead the Longhorns in his first playoff game as head coach against the team that launched his head coaching career in 2009. Quarterback Quinn Ewers leads the Longhorns.
The Sugar Bowl is in New Orleans and starts at 8:45 p.m. ET.
What's all the controversy about?
Alabama and Texas are looking to prove that the playoff selection committee's choice that the teams deserve to be in the semifinals was the right one.
In the final season of the much maligned four-team format — before the tournament switches to a12-team field — Alabama and Texas controversially made the semifinals cut. Both teams lost one game, yet undefeated Florida State was snubbed. The committee no longer considered Florida State final four material without star quarterback Jordan Travis, who was taken out by a late-season leg injury. Alabama was picked because it beat two-time defending champion Georgia in the SEC championship game. Texas got in because it had previously beaten Alabama.
Most of the betting action places hopes on the underdogs
The attention around the New Year's Day double-header is expected to lead to a record jump in bets, sportsbook director Jay Kornegay told The Associated Press.
"We expect the handle to double, possibly triple, what we did last year mainly because the games are being played on New Year's Day rather than New Year's Eve," said Kornegay, Westgate's vice president of race and sports operations. "Certainly, the participants have huge fan bases."
As of Sunday evening, analysts say Michigan is the slight favorite to win, but underdog Alabama is raking in the highest percentage of the game's bets and money, according to numbers from FanDuel Sportsbook. For the Washington-Texas game, the underdog Huskies have the majority stake for both amount of money and the bets, with Texas as the favorite.
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