On New Year’s Day, while many will try to gobble up the leftovers from the day before and some will wonder why New Year’s Eve isn’t just a very long Infoman, others will snuggle up in their sofa to watch one of the most beautiful sporting spectacles of the year.

Alabama, Michigan, Texas and Washington. Four American states which, among other things, allowed Franklin D. Roosevelt to be elected president in 1932. But above all, these are the four universities qualified for this year’s American college football playoffs.

The Crimson Tide, Wolverines, Longhorns and Huskies were selected by the College Football Playoff (CFP) committee to play in the semifinals leading to the national championship. If the previous sentence is incomprehensible to you, here is a short explanation of the NCAA football playoff format.

Since 2014, 13 members have served on the CFP. They are former coaches, former players, program directors, administrators and journalists. Together, each week, they compile a ranking of the 25 best teams in the United States. Their evaluation is based on performance, intraconference wins, schedule difficulty, past matchups and opponent comparisons. The four teams at the top of the ranking at the end of the period are therefore part of the elimination picture.

For example, despite having a record of 13 wins and no losses, Florida State finished in fifth place, behind Texas and Alabama who had a record of 12-1.

It’s hard to ask for a better duel to start these semi-finals. Not only will this clash pit two of the most prestigious programs in the United States, but above all it will involve two programs that are polar opposites.

On the one hand, there is Alabama. This program led by the great Nick Saban has won the Grand Final three times in the last eight years.

For its part, Michigan had to admit defeat in the semi-finals the last two years. However, the chances are good that this shortage will end at the turn of the new year.

The Blues finished the season ranked first in the entire NCAA in points allowed per game – the average is 9.5 – and second in yards allowed. Jalen Milroe, Alabama’s quarterback, has the talent to stay upright against the wind, but Michigan’s air defense is so dominant that he might end up breaking. Especially if cornerback Mike Sainristil acts up. He was among the most efficient at his position with five interceptions and two touchdowns. The king of key games. He is to the Wolverines what Marc-Antoine Dequoy is to the Alouettes.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy is still young at 20 years old, but he’s shown some great things. We’ve seen it coming for a long time and it finally seems to be hatching. However, Michigan’s real threat is in the backfield. Blake Corum is a locomotive without brakes. The running back had 24 touchdowns in 13 games, including 22 within 10 yards of the end zone.

However, Nick Saban knows how to win. Above all, his team knows how to gain the upper hand on key plays. If they want to win, the Crimson Tide will have to win trench warfare. Alabama was the better team offensively on fourth down. But like Michigan, Alabama’s success also relies on defense with Terrion Arnold, Chris Braswell and Dallas Turner. And with a cornerback with a nickname as delicious as Kool-Aid McKinstry, it’s hard not to be biased.

However, even if the conference in which Alabama plays is historically stronger, faster and more talented than that of Michigan, the Wolverines have too much depth to lose. And with a team giving up so few penalties and turnovers, we’re sure they won’t beat themselves.

Why do we love the Texas Longhorns so much? Because Matthew McConaughey attends the majority of their home games. Yes, but still? Because the program has been completely reinvigorated. Bijan Robinson has worked miracles there and Arch Manning is expected like few quarterbacks have been in recent years. The Longhorns are captivating and spectacular.

However, the challenge will be colossal for the Texans. Few observers saw the Washington Huskies in their soup at the start of the campaign.

Like the rest of his team, Penix Jr. plays like he has nothing to lose. He executes with relaxation, attitude and above all with the conviction of being able to win, despite everything. Thanks to him, Washington’s offense has become one of the most threatening in the NCAA.

In truth, another player stood out. Receiver Rome Odunze finished third in yards rushing. Like Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith at Alabama or Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase at LSU, the chemistry between Penix Jr. and Odunze seems unshakeable. If it weren’t for Marvin Harrison Jr., he would have been the best receiver in the college circuit.

Unfortunately for Longhorns fans, their team excels against the ground game. However, Washington relies above all on air attack.

This duel will be high-scoring, for sure. Both teams scored over 30 points in the majority of their games. If the match is tough, Texas has the necessary tools to make the difference. On special teams, the team can count on the most effective kicker in Bert Auburn and on receiver Xavier Worthy, a threat on every punt return. Quarterback Quinn Ewers was smoking hot in his last game with 452 passing yards, but his team will have its hands full against a full roster determined to continue to surprise and amaze.