Bowl Predictions 2021: Projecting College Football Playoff Field After Week 7
There may not be much standing in the way of Georgia making a return to the College Football Playoff.
The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs improved to 7-0 with a 30-13 win over No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday. They may not have another regular-season game against a ranked opponent. In Week 8, they play Florida, which will likely be unranked after it got upset at LSU.
Georgia has five more games and then will likely be taking part in the SEC Championship Game in December. There's a chance the Bulldogs could reach the CFP even if they don't win the conference title, but they can control their own destiny by winning out to remain the top team in the country.
With Week 7 of the 2021 season complete, here are some projections for the New Year's Six bowl matchups, including both CFP semifinal tilts.
New Year's Six Bowl Predictions
College Football Playoff Semifinals
Orange Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State
Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Cincinnati vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
Rest of New Year's Six
Peach Bowl: Michigan vs. Wake Forest
Fiesta Bowl: Penn State vs. Coastal Carolina
Rose Bowl: Iowa vs. Oregon
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma State
Could 2 SEC Teams Reach the CFP Again?
The only previous time that Georgia reached the College Football Playoff was the 2017 season, and it wasn't the only SEC school in the four-team field that year. Alabama also made it, even though the Bulldogs had won the conference championship by beating the Crimson Tide.
Something similar could happen this year. Although Alabama seems to be out of the CFP picture after it lost at Texas A&M in Week 6, it could still get in by winning out, a path that would likely require a victory against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
The Crimson Tide got back on track Saturday with a 49-9 win at Mississippi State. It's possible they could win their final five regular-season games, which would set them up for a crucial appearance in the SEC title game.
If Alabama beats Georgia for the SEC title and both teams have only one loss apiece, each team could have a case to get into the CFP. Of course, the odds of both getting in would improve if some of the other top Playoff contenders lose along the way.
Ohio State Now the Front-Runner in the Big Ten
Entering Saturday, Iowa was the No. 2 team in the country and seemed to be the top team in the Big Ten considering it had beaten Penn State the previous week. That may no longer be the case.
The Hawkeyes lost 24-7 to unranked Purdue at home, which means they will be falling down the AP Top 25 poll this week. Consequently, Ohio State, which was on a bye, is likely to be the highest-ranked team from the Big Ten given it entered the week at No. 6, one spot ahead of Penn State.
The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions are set to go head-to-head Oct. 30, and that could be a key matchup in determining the order of the final Big Ten standings. Michigan and Michigan State have also been playing well and are contenders to win the conference championship.
So while Ohio State controls its own destiny and could reach the CFP, there's still plenty of time for one of the other Big Ten teams to knock out the Buckeyes and earn a Playoff spot.
Cincinnati Keeps Rolling in Historic CFP Quest
Looking to become the first Group of Five school to reach the CFP since the system was implemented in 2014, Cincinnati keeps on rolling. On Saturday, the Bearcats improved to 6-0 with a 56-21 victory over UCF, which could put them in position to move up to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 poll after Iowa's loss.
Cincinnati has notched quality victories over Indiana and Notre Dame, but it will likely need to keep winning big in its AAC matchups in order to impress the CFP selection committee. The Bearcats face only one ranked team over their final six games (No. 23 SMU on Nov. 20), so they may not be able to afford any close calls against weaker opponents.
If Cincinnati ends up as the undefeated AAC champion, it could be hard not to include the Bearcats in the CFP, especially if they keep winning as handily as they did Saturday. But one loss would likely knock them out of contention.
So while Cincinnati is showing no sign of slowing down, the pressure will grow as it keeps winning.