Bowl Projections 2021: Updated CFP Predictions for Week 12
Another week of college football gone by means another batch of College Football Playoff rankings is due, and the race for the four playoff berths is starting to narrow.
In terms of the top teams, Week 11 was fairly tame. The Oklahoma Sooners were the only top team that really hurt their chances of getting in. Their loss to No. 11 Baylor sent them down eight spots to No. 12 in the AP poll. The committee already didn't like the Big 12 power, so it's hard to imagine they won't treat them similarly.
This year, the committee's decision is shaping up to be a difficult one. Nine of the top 10 teams in the AP poll have one loss or less, and while some of that will be sorted out as they play each other and play in conference championship games, it's not going to be an easy field to sort.
With just two games left before conference championship week, here's a look at how the playoff might shake out.
College Football Playoff
Orange Bowl (December 31): No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
Cotton Bowl (December 31): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Cincinnati
New Year's Six Bowls
Peach Bowl (December 30): Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl (January 1): Michigan State vs. Wake Forest
Rose Bowl (January 1): Oregon vs. Michigan
Sugar Bowl (January 1): Oklahoma State vs. Alabama
Orange Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
Georgia is probably the only team in the country right now that should feel secure that it is in the tournament. The Bulldogs have been dominant all season, and they only have Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech left on the regular-season schedule.
The Dawgs defense was once again dominant in Week 11. They held the Vols rushing attack to 1.5 yards per carry on 36 rushing attempts. They actually gave up a season-high 17 points, but the fact that's their season-high tells you all you need to know about the unit.
It's a footnote when you consider the offense put up 41 points of its own and averaged 6.7 yards per carry.
Georgia could lose in the SEC Championship Game and still get into the playoff. All it has to do at this point is show up and play—and not get upset by Charleston Southern or Georgia Tech.
The fourth seed is going to be hotly contested and debated, per usual. Notre Dame was ranked ninth the last time the committee delivered its rankings, but it has one of the easiest paths to making it through the rest of the regular season unscathed.
The Irish will face a pair of 3-7 teams in Stanford and Georgia Tech, and their only loss came against Cincinnati, a team that is in good shape to get in if it remains undefeated.
Notre Dame's resume is sure to create controversy. It's anchored by wins over UNC, Wisconsin and Purdue, which might not hold up against other teams' signature wins but has helped it have the third-ranked strength of record by ESPN's metrics.
Gary Barta's words from the latest batch of rankings should have Irish fans feeling good.
"If Notre Dame just keeps winning, we'll have to see what happens with Oklahoma, Michigan State, Michigan that are above them," the selection committee chair said.
Since then, Oklahoma has lost to Baylor. Michigan State and Michigan both have Ohio State on the docket and a conference championship if they get past the Buckeyes.
Notre Dame could simply be the last team standing.
Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Cincinnati
The entirety of southern Ohio might temporarily be in Texas if this happens.
The road is simple (not easy) for the Buckeyes. They are in control of their own destiny. A loss to Oregon is their only blemish, and if the Ducks win out, they will likely be in as the Pac-12 champion. But even if they don't, Ohio State's remaining schedule gives it plenty of opportunities to make a statement.
It starts this week when Ryan Day's squad welcomes No. 7 Michigan State to Columbus. Should Ohio State get past the Spartans, it will travel up to Ann Arbor for a chance to win the division outright and likely stamp its ticket to the playoffs with a win against No. 6 Michigan.
From there, it will likely be on to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, where it would get another direct comparison to Michigan and Notre Dame—who both beat the Badgers.
The Buckeyes offense hit another gear against Purdue, putting up 59 points to beat the Boilermakers, who have played spoiler against Iowa and Michigan State this season.
Whether Cincinnati gets in will be one of the biggest questions surrounding the committee every week. It has never put a Group of Five program in the final four, but this is shaping up to be the year that streak comes to an end.
The Bearcats keep winning every week, and while they had close calls against Tulsa (28-20) and Navy (27-20), they have been ranked high enough by the committee to believe those aren't being held against them too much.
A head-to-head win over Notre Dame anchors their resume, and they probably need to win their final two games and the AAC championship in style to maximize their chances. But they are in a great position to force the committee to make a decision between an undefeated team with a signature win or a two-loss Power Five champ.
Last year shouldn't matter, but it's hard to say that it won't. Cincinnati ran the table and got invited to the Peach Bowl, where it only lost to Georgia by three.
After showing they belonged last year, the Bearcats could finally break the Group of Five ceiling this season and get a crack at the premier program in Ohio as a result.