Let’s talk some college football.

We have to wonder why the College Football Playoff Committee ranked Michigan (No. 1) ahead of Washington (No. 2) when setting the semifinal matchups.

Both teams are 13-0, but Washington ranks No. 1 in the nation in strength of record – one spot above Michigan. And in strength of schedule, Washington is 9th compared to Michigan’s 35th. Five of the Huskies’ wins came against teams that were ranked in the top 25 at the time of the game: Oregon (twice), Utah, Oregon State and USC. Michigan had three victories against teams ranked in the top 25 on the day of the game: Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa.

Or maybe it’s this: Washington’s real reward was a No. 2 ranking to avoid a semifinal matchup against fourth-seeded Alabama. The Huskies will play No. 3 Texas instead.

Here are the odds of winning the national championship for each of the four teams:

* Michigan +180. A winning $100 wager results in a $180 return.

* Alabama +210. A successful $100 wager pays $210.

* Texas +260. If the $100 wager hits, you collect $260.

* Washington +800. This is the highest risk-reward option. The Huskies would give you a $800 payout on a correct $100 investment.

THE SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS

Michigan is favored by 1 and ½ points over Alabama. And Texas is a four-point favorite over Washington. Here’s some preliminary information:

Texas is 7-6 against the spread this season, all games. Washington is 6-6-1 ATS, all games.

Texas is 6-6 against the spread as a favorite. Washington is 2-0 ATS as an underdog.

Texas is 3-3 against the spread when facing an opponent that has won 70 percent (or more) of its games. Washington is 4-1-1 ATS when taking on an opponent that has won at least 70% of its games.

Alabama is 5-1 against the spread against opponents that have won at least 70 percent of their games. Michigan is 3-0-1 ATS when playing teams that have won at least 70% of its games.

Alabama is 1-0 against the spread as an underdog. Michigan is 7-5-1 ATS as the favorite.

Alabama is 4-2 against the spread in road/neutral games. Michigan is 5-1 ATS in road/neutral games.

EARLY THOUGHTS ON MIZZOU VS. OHIO STATE

The seventh-ranked Buckeyes are a 1-point favorite over ninth-ranked Mizzou in the Dec. 29 Cotton Bowl. The transfer portal could impact the viability of Ohio State in this game, because starting quarterback Kyle McCord is leaving the program. And with an eye on the 2024 NFL Draft, the exceptional Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is likely to opt out of this one.

One of the most compelling aspects of this matchup will be watching Mizzou tailback Cody Schrader try to crack Ohio State’s restrictive rushing defense. The SEC’s leading rusher will be tested by one of the toughest Power 5 teams to run against.

When going against Power 5 opponents, Ohio State has allowed only three rushing touchdowns this season (2nd nationally), is 4th in EPA run defense per play, has yielded 4.1 yards per carry (6th), is 11th best at limiting yards after contact, is 3rd best at preventing positive runs, and is 8th nationally in the percentage (11.3) of busting opponent rushes.

The Buckeyes are excellent against the pass. They rank 4th among Power 5 teams (against Power 5 competition) in pass defense EPA, are 3rd in limiting positive pass plays, 3rd in limiting big-play pass completions, and 5th in the percentage of forcing negative outcomes on opponents’ passing plays.

As for Ohio State opt-outs, here’s a speculative breakdown from Cleveland.com:

“The speculation starts with the biggest stars on offense. Marvin Harrison Jr. is widely expected to be the first receiver selected in April’s NFL Draft. He could be the first non-quarterback selected. Emeka Egbuka also was speculated as a first-round pick prior to missing much of the season with an ankle injury.

“Running back TreVeyon Henderson also likely helped his draft stock considerably with his performance in the second half of the season after returning from his own upper-body injury.

“The defense could be gutted if players with remaining eligibility decide to leave early and skip the bowl. That starts up front with ends J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer and tackles Tyleik Williams, Mike Hall Jr. and Ty Hamilton. The secondary could also be depleted pending the decisions of cornerbacks Denzel Burke and Jordan Hancock and safety Lathan Ransom. He may be a lock to opt out after missing the final weeks of the regular season with injury.

“Outside of those players with early entry decisions, seniors such as tight end Cade Stover, right guard Matt Jones and linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers must also decide whether to stick around or move on.”

FLORIDA STATE PROTESTS

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – irate over exclusion of Florida State from the four-team tournament – has asked the state legislature to provide $1 million in funding for a lawsuit against the CFP Committee. This amounts to a cheap publicity stunt by DeSantis, a Harvard grad. If a suit is filed, it will be thrown into the garbage. Rather than dwell on this – and for the sake of having fun – I prefer to conjure a frivolous conspiracy theory.

1. DeSantis is engaged in a roiling feud with The Walt Disney Company, which owns and operates Disney World in Orlando. Disney has outmaneuvered and frustrated the Guv.

2. The Disney Company owns the ABC Network, which includes ESPN.

3. ABC-ESPN has exclusive rights to televise (or stream) the annual College Football Playoff.

4. Next season, ESPN will be the exclusive carrier of SEC football, which houses Alabama – the team that was placed in this season’s final four instead of Florida State.

5. The Alabama-Michigan matchup will be a ratings and revenue bonanza for Disney-ABC-ESPN. The game will draw substantially more interest than a Michigan vs. Florida State matchup.

6. So … in addition to doing what’s best for its sports broadcast-streaming entities from a business standpoint, Disney executives get to enjoy trolling DeSantis.

7. Disney wins again.

Disney also owns the ACC Network, and Florida State is in the ACC. But let’s be real here: having an iconic-brand SEC team in the playoff is more lucrative than having a representative (Florida State) from the weakest Power 5 Conference (ACC.)

Do I believe this conspiracy theory? Hell, no. But in today’s America, if you don’t peddle wacko and preposterous conspiracy theories then you don’t fit in and probably move to Belgium or something. I’m just trying to play along so I can maintain my U.S. citizenship.

ARMY-NAVY

Let’s return to dignity.

The 124th meeting between these proud service-academy rivals takes place Saturday (2 p.m. STL time) at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

This purity of this Army-Navy game comes at the ideal time. We can’t put aside the yapping and yelping over the CFB playoff controversy, take a break from monitoring the mad rush to the transfer portal, and pay no mind to job-hopping coaches. This is a stand-alone game that stands above the greed and gluttony that defines major college football.

I grew up near Annapolis as a Navy fan. My first live sporting event was watching a Navy team with Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach in 1963. I was too young to remember much, but just seeing that vast and beautiful field of green at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium had me hooked.

I root for Army in every game of the season except this one. And that feeling became stronger because of my friendship with Jim Thomas, the retired sports writer from the Post-Dispatch. Jim and wife Paula raised two sons that graduated from West Point.

As much as I crave a Navy win, I’ve never felt bad – or angry – when the Cadets beat the Midshipmen. The magnitude of this rivalry transcends the usual pettiness. This game celebrates two branches of the U.S. military and all that is still good about the spirit of sports competition.

Navy goes into this clash as a three-point underdog. The line makes sense in a number of ways. Army has won five of the last seven matchups against Navy, flipping a trend that had the Black Knights coming up short in 16 of their previous 17 meetings with the Mids including a 14-game losing streak that spanned from 2002 through 2015. Until recently, Army hadn’t dominated Navy since capturing 11 of 15 games from 1984 through 1998. The stretch included a five-game Army win streak from 1992 through ‘96.

Both 5-6 teams failed to qualify for a bowl game during the regular season. Saturday’s winner can become bowl eligible. For the losing side, this will likely be the final football game for the seniors. This only adds to the powerful emotions that go into this encounter. If you watch this game – and you should – you will see players moved to tears after the game’s conclusion.

The Black Knights haven’t played since November 18 and should be healthier and more rested than Navy which last played Nov. 25. After a brief upturn that produced American Athletic Conference wins over East Carolina and UAB, Navy was routed 59-14 by SMU in the final week of the regular season. The Navy offense has struggled mightily under first-year head coach Brian Newberry.

For Army, the regular-season highlights included a 23-3 upset victory over Air Force on Nov. 4, and a 37-29 win over UTSA on Sept. 15. The worst Saturday for Army was a 62-0 loss at LSU. Navy has been a member of the AAC since 2015. Army, a long-time independent, will join Navy in the conference starting next season.

With a triumph over Navy on Saturday, Army would win their their fourth Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy outright since 2017. If Navy wins, the CIC title would go to Air Force.

My pick: Other than the predictable blowout at LSU, the Army defense has been slightly better than Navy’s this season. But there’s a gap between the rivals on offense, with Army ranking 15 spots higher than Navy in yards per play. In the overall team efficiency ratings, Army is 21 slots above Navy in the ratings. The over/under for this one is 27.5 points, and that’s the most intriguing number from an investment standpoint.

I’d recommend taking the over. Perhaps that’s because I remember Army-Navy combining for 37 points in last year’s game. This season Army’s games averaged 43 combined points compared to an average 41 combined points in Navy’s contests.

Army 17, Navy 13.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

All stats used in this column were sourced from Sports Reference and Sports Info Solutions. 

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.