The Fiesta Bowl: TCU vs Michigan (12/31/2022 4:00 pm EDT)
Line: Michigan -7.5
The Fiesta Bowl: TCU vs Michigan
As two of only four teams remaining in the College Football Playoff (CFP), the TCU Horned Frogs will get set to play the Michigan Wolverines in the Fiesta Bowl with a chance to advance to the title game on the line for both teams. It’s a huge matchup between two of the best teams in the nation during the 2022 season as the 3rd-ranked Horned Frogs enter the Fiesta Game coming off a loss to Kansas State 31-28, while the 2nd-ranked Wolverines defeated Purdue 43-22 in their final game of the regular season.
Nobody expected TCU to be this good in 2022. As per usual, the Big 12 teams everyone talked about coming into the season were Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Who would have thought it would be the Horned Frogs that would go on to be the cream of the crop with a 12-1 record, reeling off 12 consecutive wins before losing the Big 12 Championship to Kansas State? Well, regardless, that’s what happened as TCU only lost one game the entire season, finishing at 12-1 that included a 9-3-1 record ATS while going 7-6 versus the over/under.
For one thing, you have to give the Horned Frogs credit not only for their 12-game winning streak but the fact that they were able to win by large margins and victories in several close contests as well. There was also a stretch where TCU played four straight ranked opponents and won every single one of those games, including a great comeback victory over Oklahoma State where they were down 30-16 heading into the fourth quarter. Whether they had to come back or not, the Horned Frogs were simply better than their competition this season and will have a shot to play for the championship if they win.
So, what has made TCU so good this season? In short, it’s the offense, and lots of it, as they put up 473 yards a game, good for 16th in the country, in a well-balanced attack that averages 273 yards passing and another 200 yards rushing per game. That’s not it. The offense also puts up a sixth-best 40.3 points a contest and their defense, while not a dominant unit, ranked 16th in the country with 14 takeaways on the year.
Michigan is one of those college football bluebloods that has high expectations every single season. This year they exceeded those standards in the regular season, going undefeated at 13-0 with a signature win coming against Ohio State (we’ll get to that in a bit). The Wolverines also dominated the Big 10, going 9-0 in conference play. For the regular season, Michigan went 8-4-1 ATS spread but only 4-8-1 versus the over/under.
The knock on the Wolverines from their critics has been a schedule that saw very few ranked teams, with the aforementioned Buckeyes being one and Penn State being the other. On that note, that’s not Michigan’s fault. What is their fault is the fact that they outscored both Ohio State and Penn State 86-40 and beat the two by an average of 23 points. That’s impressive because both were Top 10 teams over the last half of the season which shows you just how good the Wolverines are.
Michigan can beat you with its defense or its offense, making them one of the most dangerous teams in the CFP. Remember how TCU was ranked sixth in the nation in overall scoring? Well, the Wolverines are ranked seventh but they’re better at rushing, ranking fifth in the country, but what also makes them potent is that they’re sixth overall in time of possession. The scary part is their defense stands out more. The Wolverines rank third in yards per play, third in rushing yards per play, and fifth in points allowed.
Free Pick – Michigan -7.5
TCU has been a great story from the get-go because no one thought they’d go this far and are not one of the powerhouse programs like the other three teams in the CFP. That being said, the Wolverines are extremely tough on both sides of the ball and don’t allow opponents to stay on the field long, ranking fourth overall in opponents’ time of possession. For an offensive-powered team like the Horned Frogs, that could spell doom early on as they rely on controlling the clock with the success of their offense. They struggled with Kansas State’s defense in the Big 12 championship, their only loss of the season, and Michigan’s defense is far better. The Cinderella story for TCU will end on the final day of 2022 accordingly as the Wolverines will prove to be too strong overall to keep up with. We like Michigan -7.5.