College Football Playoff 2021: Updated Rankings and Bowl Predictions
In a little less than four weeks, the College Football Playoff will get underway. However, fans won't have to wait nearly that long to find out which four teams will be battling it out for the national championship to end the 2021 season.
The CFP selection committee will announce the Playoff field on Sunday afternoon. Before that, Saturday's action could have a big impact on their decisions, as eight conference championship games will be taking place. And there will be some top teams looking to secure their spots in the CFP while also trying to win conference titles.
Here's a look at the latest CFP rankings heading into conference championship weekend, followed by predictions for which teams will make the Playoff and which others will still get to play in a New Year's Six bowl.
Latest College Football Playoff Rankings
1. Georgia (12-0)
2. Michigan (11-1)
3. Alabama (11-1)
4. Cincinnati (12-0)
5. Oklahoma State (11-1)
6. Notre Dame (11-1)
7. Ohio State (10-2)
8. Ole Miss (10-2)
9. Baylor (10-2)
10. Oregon (10-3)
11. Michigan State (10-2)
12. BYU (10-2)
13. Iowa (10-2)
14. Oklahoma (10-2)
15. Pittsburgh (10-2)
16. Wake Forest (10-2)
17. Utah (10-3)
18. NC State (9-3)
19. San Diego State (11-1)
20. Clemson (9-3)
21. Houston (11-1)
22. Arkansas (8-4)
23. Kentucky (9-3)
24. Louisiana (11-1)
25. Texas A&M (8-4)
College Football Playoff Predictions
Orange Bowl (Dec. 31): Georgia vs. Oklahoma State
Cotton Bowl (Dec. 31): Michigan vs. Cincinnati
These four schools have a combined one previous College Football Playoff appearance. Georgia reached the Playoff in the 2017 season, when it lost to Alabama in the CFP National Championship Game. The other three programs have never reached the CFP.
So there should be a fresh feel to this year's Playoff, assuming these teams take care of business Saturday.
Georgia likely doesn't need to win to get into the CFP. If it loses to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, it would be its first loss of the season after reeling off 12 consecutive wins. The Bulldogs wouldn't be the No. 1 seed in that scenario, but they could still get into the Playoff.
But if Georgia wins the SEC title, it may also prevent Alabama from getting into the CFP. The Crimson Tide have only missed the Playoff once since the system was implemented in 2014, and they're also the defending national champions.
However, Alabama would be a two-loss team without a conference title. It would likely need some other top teams to lose in order for it to still have a chance to get into the CFP at that point.
The prediction here is that Georgia will win, as will Michigan and Cincinnati in its respective conference title games. The Wolverines will defeat Iowa for the Big Ten championship, while the Bearcats will take down Houston to win the AAC championship.
Those three teams will secure spots, Alabama will lose and Oklahoma State will seize the open spot by beating Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game. And with that, the CFP field for this season will be set.
Other New Year's Six Bowl Predictions
Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1): Alabama vs. Baylor
Rose Bowl (Jan. 1): Ohio State vs. Utah
Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan State vs. Ole Miss
Peach Bowl (Dec. 30): Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest
Conference championship weekend has already had an impact on one of these matchups. Oregon was the front-runner to be the Pac-12's representative for the Rose Bowl, but it needed to beat Utah in the conference championship game for that to happen.
Instead, the Ducks lost to the Utes for the second time this season. Utah notched a 38-10 victory, and it should now be heading to the Rose Bowl to take on a team from the Big Ten.
Ohio State should be going to the Rose Bowl as the best Big Ten team not to make the CFP. Michigan will be going to the Playoff, but the Buckeyes will still get to play in a marquee bowl game.
The only other New Year's Six bowl with conference tie-ins is the Sugar Bowl, which must feature one team from the SEC and one from the Big 12. That's where Alabama will be heading if it loses the SEC title game and misses out on the CFP, while Baylor should play in this game, unless it gets blown out by Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game.
The Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl will feature four top teams that miss out on the CFP, and they can come from any conference. Notre Dame has the best chance to be playing in one of these games, considering it's at No. 6 in the rankings and has lost only one game this season.
Ole Miss and Michigan State didn't make conference title games, but both had strong seasons and are deserving of a New Year's Six bowl berth.
Also, the ACC champion will likely be playing in one of these two games. That could be either Pittsburgh or Wake Forest, the teams facing off Saturday night. It's a matchup that could go either way.