College football playoff preview: Top 10 players to watch

Get your popcorn ready, college football fans.

All eyes will be on Saturday’s college football playoff semifinals, as Michigan takes on TCU in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (4 p.m. ET), while Georgia takes on Ohio State in the Chick- wire-A Peach Bowl (8 p.m. ET).

Both matchups are loaded with talent. Three of the four starting quarterbacks were Heisman finalists, while the other, Michigan’s JJ McCarthy, is expected to be among the favorites to win college football’s top individual award next season.

While the quarters get the most attention, there are plenty of other standout players who are likely to have a big impact in the semis.

Here are 10 players to watch in the college football playoffs.

Stetson BennetQB, Georgia

Bennett wasn’t a hot rookie like McCarthy or a projected first-round pick like CJ Stroud, but the Georgia elder just knows how to win. He will be looking to be the first quarterback to lead his team to back-to-back national championships since former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron did so in 2011-12. Bennett consistently plays his best on the biggest stage, as he has been outstanding in three wins against ranked opponents this season. Ohio State’s defense has had its ups and downs in 2022, which means Bennett could be set for a big game against the Buckeyes.

Peach Bowl preview: Can the Buckeyes pull off the upset?

Peach Bowl preview: Can the Buckeyes pull off the upset?

Brock BowersTE, Georgia

Georgia has a balanced offensive offense, but when it comes to top point guards in this unit, no one is better at the big time than Bowers. Standing 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Bowers is the size of a prototypical tight end, but moves like a wide receiver. He has excellent hands and is an exceptional road runner. Ohio State limited Notre Dame All-American tight end Michael Mayer to just five catches for 32 yards earlier this season. It will be interesting to see if Bowers can find any open passing lanes against this OSU defense.

Jalen CarterDT, Georgia

The stats aren’t obvious — 29 tackles and three sacks — but there’s no more dominant defensive presence in the CFP than Carter. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman has been injured for much of the first half of the 2022 season. Since returning to action against Florida on Oct. 29, Carter has been an unstoppable force in the one of the best defensive units in the country. His ability to generate pressure and wreak havoc on Ohio State’s big power offense will be fascinating to watch.

Max DuganQB, TCU

There isn’t a single player in the CFP who is more important to his team’s success than Duggan. He is the straw that stirs the drink for the horned frogs. Along with throwing for over 3,300 yards and 30 touchdowns, Duggan also added 404 yards and six rushing scores. He was responsible for 58% of TCU’s offensive touchdowns this season. Duggan faces a very tough test against a Michigan defense that has been outstanding all season, ranking third among FBS teams in yards allowed per game (277.1) and fifth in points allowed (13.4) .

TCU’s Max Duggan Wins Davey O’Brien Award

TCU's Max Duggan Wins Davey O'Brien Award

Marvin Harrison Jr.WR, Ohio State

One of the best wide receivers in college football will get the chance to show off his big-play ability against the famed Georgia defense. Harrison has been nothing short of outstanding this season, with 72 catches for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns. He will likely face Georgia lock-in corner Kelee Ringo who could ultimately decide who advances to the national title game.

JJ McCarthyQC, Michigan

McCarthy is one of the most effective quarterbacks in the country, and a lot of that is down to his conservative style of play. The sophomore flagger has thrown for 2,376 yards and 20 touchdowns with just three interceptions this season. McCarthy is an elite-level athlete who will be asked to use his athleticism to make plays as the Wolverines try to keep pace with a high-powered TCU offense that is averaging 40.3 points per game (sixth in FBS). Luckily for the Wolverines, McCarthy is playing his best football lately. He’s combined for 424 total yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games, including a win over rival Ohio State in the team’s regular season finale and a win over Purdue in the Big Ten Championship game. .

What is at stake for Michigan and the TCU?

What is at stake for Michigan and the TCU?

Olusegun OluwatimiOL, Michigan

You wouldn’t expect an offensive lineman to make this list, but Oluwatimi is an exception. A transfer from Virginia, Oluwaitimi is exceptional in both running and pass blocking. He was named the winner of the Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the top center in college football, as well as the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the top inside lineman. With Blake Corum unable to play due to injury, Wolverines will rely on Oluwatimi to open up rushing gaps for Donovan Edwards, who has combined to rush for 401 yards and three touchdowns in Wolverines’ last two games.

Kelee RingoBC, Georgia

There are very few cornerbacks in college football who possess both the speed and physical stature to match Harrison Jr. Ringo, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound cornerback with a 4.3 speed, is l ‘one of them. All eyes will be on this game as Ringo will be tasked with slowing Harrison and the Buckeyes’ explosive offense. The talented sophomore had a memorable 79-yard pick in last year’s national title game that sealed victory over SEC foes Alabama. Can history repeat itself?

C.J. StroudQB, Ohio State

Stroud may not have a win over Michigan or a Big Ten title as a starting QB on his resume, but he has the chance to become Ohio State’s first quarterback since 2014 at lead the Buckeyes to a national title. Standing in his way will be a nasty Georgia defense that has held opposing offenses to just 12.8 points per game this season, which ranks second among FBS teams. Stroud is as good as anyone in college football when it comes to making big plays with his arm. He’s averaging 9.4 yards per completion, which ranks third in the nation, and has 37 touchdown passes, which is tied for fourth. After squealing in the CFP following USC’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 title game, it’s a shot at redemption for Stroud and the Buckeyes, and a chance to prove they belong. the elite of college football.

[Related: C.J. Stroud is still writing his Ohio State legacy]

Georgia and Ohio State face off in the Peach Bowl

Georgia and Ohio State face off in the Peach Bowl

Tre’Vius Hodges-TomlinsonCB, TCU

Winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation, Hodges-Tomlinson will be tasked with ending a Michigan passing offense that set the Buckeyes on fire for 263 yards and three scores on Nov. 26. Hodges-Tomlinson isn’t a big corner by any means — listed at 5-foot-9, 177 pounds — but he has plenty of big-play ability and a knack for stopping the opposing team’s top receivers.

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