CFP Bowl Projections 2021: Predicting Playoff, New Year's Games
There are six contenders left for the four available College Football Playoff berths.
The list could be trimmed to five if the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.
If all the other championship games go to chalk, the Cincinnati Bearcats and Michigan Wolverines will join Georgia in the College Football Playoff.
The final position could come down to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Notre Dame is in the clubhouse with an 11-1 record, with its only loss coming to Cincinnati at Notre Dame Stadium.
Oklahoma State has one more chance to gain ground on Notre Dame with a win in the Big 12 Championship Game.
If that is case, the CFB Playoff selection committee will have a difficult decision to make to decide which team faces Georgia in the national semifinals.
CFB Playoff, New Year's Six Predictions
College Football Playoff
Orange Bowl (December 31): No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Oklahoma State
Cotton Bowl (December 31): No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Cincinnati
New Year's Six
Peach Bowl (December 30): Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss
Fiesta Bowl (January 1): Michigan State vs. Notre Dame
Rose Bowl (January 1): Ohio State vs. Oregon
Sugar Bowl (January 1): Alabama vs. Baylor
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Oklahoma State
Another week, another dominant win for the Georgia Bulldogs.
It feels like we have used the same saying about Kirby Smart's team all season.
The SEC East champion held four of its past five opponents to single digits. It shut out the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday.
The Bulldogs' case to earn the No. 1 overall seed grew stronger Saturday since they blew past another opponent and the Alabama Crimson Tide struggled to put away the Auburn Tigers. Alabama's offense failed to score in the first three quarters of the Iron Bowl. That is concerning for the Crimson Tide since they will face an even tougher defense in Atlanta on Saturday.
If Georgia takes care of Alabama, it will clinch a playoff spot and knock Alabama out of the top four. The Tide fell from No. 2 to No. 3 in the most recent rankings after a less-than-convincing win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Bama should remain at No. 3 since Michigan should jump from No. 5.
A Georgia-Oklahoma State semifinal would be a great matchup for those who love defense. Oklahoma State held all but one of its opponents under 25 points in the regular season. The Cowboys' highest point concession came Saturday, but Oklahoma reached 33 points with a good amount of help from special teams and turnovers, and the Sooners offense did not score a point in the second half.
If Oklahoma State beats the Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Championship Game, it will have two top-10 wins in the final two weeks of the season. That is two more top-10 victories than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, whose lone Top 25 win came against the Wisconsin Badgers on September 25.
The two high-quality wins combined with a conference championship should be enough to push the Cowboys over Notre Dame into the No. 4 seed.
The CFB Playoff selection committee should have a long discussion about the two programs, but Mike Gundy's team should own the slight edge.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Cincinnati
Michigan and Cincinnati have simple formulas to follow to get into the playoff.
The Wolverines need to beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game, and Cincinnati must defeat the Houston Cougars in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game.
If both those results arrive, the Wolverines and Bearcats should be aligned with each other in the national semifinals.
Michigan earned the best win of Week 13 by beating the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Wolverines should be rewarded for that victory with a jump from No. 5 to No. 2 in Tuesday's CFB Playoff rankings release.
Cincinnati was one spot behind Alabama in the latest CFB Playoff rankings. If Alabama loses to Georgia, the Bearcats should be firmly planted inside the top three.
The critics of the CFB Playoff may be concerned that Cincinnati will drop to No. 4 if three power-conference champions get into the playoff field. However, the Bearcats have had the respect of the selection committee all season. They have slowly moved up from No. 6 in the initial playoff rankings as teams have lost along the way.
An undefeated Cincinnati team with a conference championship and a quality win over Notre Dame should have enough on its resume to stay ahead of a one-loss Oklahoma State.
In the case that Oklahoma State loses, Cincinnati should be ranked ahead of Notre Dame because of the head-to-head result.
Neither Michigan nor Cincinnati has the potential to leap Georgia if the Bulldogs win the SEC Championship Game, so we should see both programs at No. 2 and No. 3 for the next two weeks.