Bowl Projections 2021: Latest Predictions for CFP Final and Most Dangerous Teams
With only one week until the College Football Playoff committee makes its final selections, there are still a lot of variables at play.
The only team that feels like a certainty for the tournament is Georgia. The SEC East champion is undefeated and has been dominant all season, so even a loss to Alabama in the conference championship game wouldn't knock it out of the top four.
The rest of the potential field likely have to win their conference to guarantee themselves a spot. Michigan will see Iowa in the Big Ten title game, but losses to Michigan State and Iowa could negate the impressive performance it had against Ohio State.
Oklahoma State will need to beat Baylor a second time to win the Big 12 and give them a leg up on Notre Dame, which is 11-1 and won't be playing on conference championship weekend.
Cincinnati is in the best position of any Group of Five team since the playoff started. It went into the week with a top-four ranking from the committee but will need to beat Houston in the AAC Championship Game.
The latest odds from DraftKings Sportsbook have Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma State and Cincinnati all favored to win their matchups. But this is college football, so the expectation rarely becomes the reality and we could still be in store for some surprises.
With one week left, here's a look at how the field could shake out and the most dangerous teams that could bring the chaos on Saturday.
CFP and New Year's Six Projections
Orange Bowl (CFP semifinal): No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Cincinnati
Cotton Bowl (CFP semifinal): No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State
CFP National Championship: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 2 Michigan
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Utah
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Baylor
Peach Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh
Fiesta Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma
The Alabama Crimson Tide might not capable of knocking Georgia out of the playoff, but they are a team that no one else in the projected field should want to see in the tournament.
This year's Tide might not go down as Nick Saban's greatest team but they are the best Georiga has seen this season. The advanced metrics still have Alabama as one of the best teams in the country. Football Outsiders' F+ metric, which combines SP+ and FEI ratings, has Alabama as the third best team in the country behind Georgia and Ohio State.
The on-field product hasn't been as dominant as Georgia's, though, and the Tide have one-score wins against Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and Florida along with a one-score loss against Texas A&M.
Georgia's wins have been comprehensive but Alabama will be the best team it plays. Bryce Young has a strong case as the best quarterback in the country, and a signal-caller who can run and get the ball to a strong collection of talented receivers is the one thing that could challenge the Georgia secondary.
The Tide probably don't deserve to be in the tournament with another loss, but if they can find a way to beat the Bulldogs—and they are only a 6.5-point underdog at DraftKings—they will be a danger to everyone trying to get in and a legitimate national title contender.
The Baylor Bears aren't in the playoff hunt, but they have the potential to play a major role in who gets in. They'll be the competition for the Big 12 title game and can guarantee themselves an appearance in the Sugar Bowl.
Baylor's own playoff chances were ended when it lost to TCU 30-28, but the team has rebounded nicely since that Nov. 6 loss.
Dave Aranda's team has won its last three games with impressive defensive performances. It only gave up 14 points to Oklahoma (who just scored 33 on the Cowboys) and held Kansas State and Texas Tech to 10 and 24 points, respectively.
That kind of defense makes this an interesting game as it only allowed 24 points to Oklahoma State the first time around. The problem is the offense was held to just 14 points.
That's because the Cowboys did a good job of stuffing the Bears' ground game. Baylor has averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the season but was held to 3.7 against Oklahoma State.
If Baylor can have more success on the ground, its defense is good enough to slow down the Oklahoma State offense and make things interesting for the selection committee by eliminating the Cowboys from the process.
When it comes to the Group of Five teams this season, all of the hype has been around Cincinnati. UTSA took a bit of the shine until it lost its regular-season finale to North Texas, but it's mostly been about Luke Fickell and his team's quest to get to the playoff.
Thus far, the Bearcats have lived up to the hype, and everything is in place for them to get in too.
They already earned the No. 4 ranking from the committee. There will, at most, be just one Power Five champion with an undefeated record. There's a real chance Oklahoma State and/or Michigan gets upset in its conference championship game and the committee would have to pick two two-loss teams to keep Cincinnati out.
But there's also the chance Cincy is upset on Saturday.
The Bearcats have been good this season but they have also had their fair share of close calls. Navy was driving to tie up the game before throwing an interception with 17 seconds left, and Tulsa had an opportunity to tie up the game in the final minute but fumbled on the one-yard line.
Both Tulsa and Navy were able to force turnovers to make things interesting. The Cougars are 15th in the country in takeaways per game and boast a much better overall defense than both Tulsa and Navy.
Dana Holgorsen's offense isn't too bad, either. Quarterback Clayton Tune has nearly identical stats to Desmond Ridder playing in the same conference and the Cougars are putting up 38.8 points per game.
Cincy has had all the attention but Houston has ripped off 11 straight wins since since losing its season opener to Texas Tech.
For those who want to see a Group of Five team get in, beware Houston. It will provide the Bearcats with their toughest test since beating Notre Dame.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).