College Football Playoff 2021: Predicting Final Four Teams Post-Week 13 Rankings

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 24, 2021

College Football Playoff 2021: Predicting Final Four Teams Post-Week 13 Rankings

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The list of College Football Playoff contenders will be narrowed down by three key games in the next two weeks. 

    The Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines will play for the Big Ten East title on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

    Saturday's clash at The Big House serves as an elimination game for the playoff since both squads have one loss. 

    The Oklahoma State Cowboys need some help to reach the Top Four, but they can only be in the conversation if they beat the Oklahoma Sooners in Bedlam on Saturday and then win the Big 12 Championship Game. 

    If the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game next Saturday, the debate for the No. 4 seed will come down to Oklahoma State and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who are next to each other in the latest College Football Playoff rankings that were released Tuesday

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Georgia has an opportunity to make a statement and give the SEC one bid to the playoff next Saturday. 

    The Bulldogs are locked into their matchup with the Crimson Tide. Both teams are expected to win their respective rivalry games Saturday. Georgia should outmatch the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who just lost 55-0 to Notre Dame, and Alabama will likely beat the Auburn Tigers without the injured Bo Nix. 

    Georgia should get into the playoff regardless of its result in the SEC Championship Game. A loss would likely make Alabama the No. 1 seed so the two sides avoid a rematch in the national semifinal. 

    That scenario is unlikely to play out because of how well Georgia's defense has played against every opponent in 2021. 

    The Bulldogs held seven opponents to single digits, and they have not allowed more than 17 points in a single game. If Georgia's defense extends its dominance into Atlanta, it will enter the playoff as the No. 1 seed.

    Notre Dame entered the playoff conversation after the Michigan State Spartans and Oregon Ducks were blown out in Week 12. 

    The Ohio State-Michigan loser will be knocked out of the playoff discussion Saturday, which would leave Notre Dame at No. 5 going into championship weekend. 

    The Fighting Irish, who should blow out the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, will be sitting on the sidelines while all the title game action goes down. 

    A Georgia win over Alabama would open the door for the Irish to take the No. 4 with a resume that carries a handful of dominant victories and a lone loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats. 

    Notre Dame's best victory is over the Wisconsin Badgers. The ACC programs that played the Irish have not been close to the Top 25 for most of the season. 

    Oklahoma State's resume would have five ranked victories if it wins out. Two of those wins would be over Top 15 teams as long as the Baylor Bears advance to the Big 12 Championship Game. 

    The Cowboys have played terrific defense in the last month, but their early ranked wins over the Kansas State Wildcats and Texas Longhorns might not hold up in the eyes of the selection committee.

    The committee has to determine if a one-loss Notre Dame with a defeat to Cincinnati and no conference championship would be a better foe for Georgia than Big 12 champion Oklahoma State. 

    The margins are expected to be thin, but Notre Dame's near flawless play of late combined with its marquee loss and brand name could keep it above Oklahoma State on December 5. 

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Cincinnati

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    A battle of Ohio in the national semifinal became more realistic once Oregon lost to the Utah Utes.

    If Alabama loses to Georgia, the Crimson Tide will fall out of the Top Four and allow Cincinnati to move up to No. 3.

    The Bearcats have slowly progressed up the playoff rankings in the last month after a few Power Five teams fell out of the way. 

    If Cincinnati beats the East Carolina Pirates on Friday and defeats the Houston Cougars in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game, it should make the field of four. 

    The Bearcats would be the No. 3 seed behind Georgia and Ohio State if the Bulldogs and Buckeyes win out as well. 

    Ohio State delivered a massive statement in its win over Michigan State in Week 12. The Buckeyes should be favored to beat Michigan bases off their dominance of the other Michigan Big Ten school.

    The high-powered offense, led by quarterback C.J. Stroud, would provide a great challenge to Georgia in a potential national championship game. Georgia has the top-rated FBS defense, and Ohio State possesses the No. 1 offense. 

    If Ohio State gets through Michigan and then Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, it would play Cincinnati. Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell played for Ohio State and was on the program's coaching staff before joining Cincinnati. 

    The potential No. 2-versus-No. 3 clash would give the College Football Playoff an in-state showdown as well as the first showdown between a Power Five program and a Group of Five squad in the playoff era.