Bowl Predictions 2021: Projections for College Football Playoff Teams

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2021

Bowl Predictions 2021: Projections for College Football Playoff Teams

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    The 2021 edition of college football's rivalry week didn't disappoint, bringing with it a day full of great games and some surprising results that are sure to have an impact on the College Football Playoff.

    Saturday started with the Michigan Wolverines creating the biggest shakeup. Jim Harbaugh and Co. earned a Big Ten Championship Game berth with a 42-27 win over Ohio State that will knock the Buckeyes out of the top four when the next set of rankings are released.

    The day nearly got even more chaotic when Alabama unexpectedly had to go to four overtimes before they could shake Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide did enough stay alive and potentially earn a CFP spot with a win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, but they aren't going to get in with style points.

    Then it was Oklahoma State's turn to get off the schneid against a bitter rival. The Pokes came from nine points down in the fourth quarter to earn their first win over the Sooners since 2014, which will set them up with a crucial Big 12 title game against Baylor.

    The weekend set up an even higher-stakes slate of conference championship games that will carry plenty of potential to further shake things up. Let's take a look at what the field may look like.

College Football Playoff and New Year's Six Projections

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    Orange Bowl (CFP Semifinal): No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Cincinnati

    Cotton Bowl (CFP Semifinal): No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State

    Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Utah

    Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Baylor

    Peach Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

    Fiesta Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma

Orange Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Cincinnati

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    Despite all the changes and fluctuations that came with rivalry week, one thing remained the same: The Georgia Bulldogs are still the team to beat in college football.

    There's no other way to look at it based on what they have done on the field. It's tough to poke any holes in their roster. They have a defense that could go down as among the best in the modern era of college football. They are allowing a little more than seven points per game. That trend continued as they put a beatdown on Georgia Tech in which they only allowed the Jackets 166 total yards and nine first downs.

    That kind of dominance isn't out of the ordinary. The most points they have allowed all season was 17 to the Tennessee Volunteers, who boast the 11th-highest-scoring offense in the nation.

    They will face their biggest test to date in Alabama, but it's hard to pick against this team. That became even more true with Alabama struggling to put away Auburn on Saturday.

    The Cincinnati Bearcats were big winners again in Week 13. After moving into the top four in the CFP committee's latest rankings, they watched another team ranked ahead of them go down in Ohio State.

    The committee has never put a Group of Five team in the playoff, but it is running out of options. It's a likely scenario that only three of the Power Five champions will have one loss at most, and the Bearcats remained undefeated with a 35-13 win over East Carolina.

    They will draw the Houston Cougars in the AAC Championship Game. That will give them one more opportunity to prove to the committee they belong given the Cougars were ranked 24th in the most recent playoff rankings.

    It's hard to see the committee ranking them any higher than fourth based on their previous treatment of G5 schools, though. So Luke Fickell's team will have to prove themselves against the best team in college football if they want to win a national championship.

Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State

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    Both Michigan and Oklahoma State broke long losing streaks to their rival schools and are consequently in line to be selected for the playoff.

    Michigan hadn't beaten Ohio State since 2011. So the fact that it broke that streak is impressive enough, but how it did it makes it even scarier for Iowa (which it will see in the conference championship) and any potential opponents.

    The Wolverines simply had their way in the trenches against a defense that was only giving up 3.1 yards per carry.

    Running back Hassan Haskins had 169 yards and five touchdowns against Ohio State. The Hawkeyes have an even better run defense, but it might not matter if Michigan continues to block as well as it did Saturday.

    A win over the Hawkeyes in the conference championship is likely to propel the Wolverines to the No. 2 spot after what they did to the previous No. 2 with the college football world watching.

    Oklahoma State had a similar monkey on its back when it came to Oklahoma. Mike Gundy came into this year's Bedlam game with just two wins over the Sooners in 17 games.

    Thanks to a stellar performance from quarterback Spencer Sanders and a great second half from the defense, he was able to get win No. 3 and knock the rival Sooners out of the playoff race.

    The victory should also put Oklahoma State in a good position to make the playoff. It has a chance to notch another quality win because it will see the Baylor Bears in the Big 12 title game. The Cowboys won the regular-season contest with Dave Aranda's team 24-14.

    The Bears survived a scare against Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders had a field goal on the final play of the game that would have sent it to overtime, but they missed and the Bears survived 24-21.

    That doesn't mean Oklahoma State will have a walk in the park in the Big 12 Championship Game. Baylor finished with three consecutive wins, including its own victory over the Sooners.

    A win for Oklahoma State would make them a one-loss Big 12 champion, which would be hard for the committee to overlook.