The College Football Playoff selection committee revealed its final rankings on Sunday, with the same teams in the top four as last week. There was a slight change in the order of the top four, though, as Alabama moved up two spots to No. 1 and Georgia fell from its perch at the top to No. 3 in the wake of the Crimson Tide’s 41-24 win over the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game.
The national semifinal matchups, which will be held on Dec. 31:
- Cotton Bowl: Alabama (No. 1) vs. Cincinnati (No. 4) at AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
- Orange Bowl: Michigan (No. 2) vs. Georgia (No. 3) at Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Florida)
Here are five draft-focused takeaways from the playoff pairings:
1) Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is the top 2022 NFL Draft prospect to watch. The senior edge rusher has been a dominant force all season long for the Wolverines and ranks among the FBS leaders in sacks with 14. In fact, he’s emerged as a candidate to be drafted first overall next year. NFL.com analyst and former scout Bucky Brooks likened his game to that of Los Angeles Chargers star Joey Bosa, the third overall pick of the 2016 draft and Defensive Rookie of the Year that season.
2) Big opportunity awaits Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder. The Bearcats signal-caller has already accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he’ll get a chance to compete against some of the top prospects in the nation. The 2022 QB class as a whole isn’t spoken about in the most glowing terms, but Ridder could go a long way to entering the all-star game with momentum by putting on a good show against Nick Saban’s defense. He was ranked as the No. 3 senior QB last week by NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter, with Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis ahead of him. As NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reported on Sunday, this is a huge moment for Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, as well.
3) Will Georgia’s defense bounce back? The Bulldogs’ D — loaded with NFL talent — hadn’t allowed more than 17 points in a game this season prior to a stunning letdown against Alabama on Saturday. Michigan is averaging 47.7 points per game over the last three weeks, and that includes wins over Ohio State — No. 2 at the time of the game against UM — and Iowa, which was ranked 15th heading into the Big Ten title bout. DT Jordan Davis — No. 6 in Reuter’s most recent rankings — and Co. have some soul searching to do leading up to the matchup against the Wolverines.
4) Jameson Williams vs. Ahmad Gardner should be fun to watch. Both the Alabama receiver and the Cincinnati cornerback are juniors who have yet to state their intentions for the 2022 draft, but they’re among the most highly regarded talents are their respective positions. Plus, Gardner’s nickname is Sauce, which only heightens his appeal in our book.
5) Take a peek into the more distant future. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and edge rusher Will Anderson are both sophomores, and therefore won’t be eligible for draft entry until 2023 at the earliest. But they’re already generating a ton of excitement in the scouting community. Young is the Heisman Trophy front-runner and Anderson leads the FBS in sacks with 15.5.
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