The College Football Playoffs return this weekend, and game one features the TCU Horned Frogs (12-1) against the Michigan Wolverines (13-0) in the Fiesta Bowl. This is the first time the Horned Frogs have earned a bid in the playoffs, and the second year in a row the Wolverines are in it.
Saturday’s kickoff is at 4 p.m. EST inside the State Farm Center in Glendale, Arizona. Michigan is a 7.5-point favorite, and the over/under total is 58.5 points.
What to Know – #3 TCU Horned Frogs
The regular season play by the Horned Frogs was worthy of the 3-seed in the CFP even after a thrilling overtime loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship. Longtime college football coach Sonny Dykes is in his first season as the head coach of the TCU program.
TCU comes into the CFP with an offense that averages 40.3 points and 473.0 yards of total offense per game. On defense, the Horned Frogs hold opponents to 25.0 points and 385.1 yards of offense.
Heisman finalist Max Duggan, the starting quarterback for TCU, was a force this year. The senior threw for 3,321 yards with 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Duggan added just over 400 yards rushing and six scores.
The Horned Frogs were 9-3-1 against the spread this year and 0-1 in their lone neutral site contest. TCU was 5-2 ATS over its previous seven contests.
What to Know – #2 Michigan Wolverines
Michigan returns to the CFP for the second straight year and hopes for a better result this time around. The Wolverines were blown out by Georgia, 34-11, in the semifinals last year. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is in his eighth year at Michigan.
The Wolverines’ offense scored 40.1 points and averaged 453.5 yards of total offense per contest. Michigan’s defense was one of the best in the nation, limiting teams to 13.4 points and 277.1 yards of offense per game.
A balanced offense attack caused problems for opposing defenses this year. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy grabbed the starting role early in the year and finished the regular season passing for 2,376 yards, 20 touchdowns, and three interceptions. Running back Blake Corum was tough to contain, carrying the ball 247 times for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Michigan was 8-4-1 ATS during the year and covered the spread in its only neutral site bout. The Wolverines are 4-2 ATS in their previous six matchups against opponents from the Big 12.
The Pick is In
Saturday’s matchup will be the first time these two programs go head to head in the school’s history. People will point to Michigan’s lack of strength of schedule, but the truth is the Wolverines have looked strong down the stretch and are peaking at the right time. Duggan and the TCU offense will have a hard time moving the ball against one of the nation’s best defenses.
A back-and-forth early, the Michigan defense and run game will eventually wear on a lackluster TCU front seven and cause for the Wolverines to pull away in the second half for a convincing victory.
The Pick: #2 Michigan Wolverines -7.5