Hello college football/Big Ten fans!
The King is dead!
One week after the Ohio State Buckeyes stomped over the Michigan State Spartans 56-7 the Michigan Wolverines beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011 yesterday and claimed the Big Ten East. This and the fact that Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma (first time since 2014) definitely changes this week's College Football Playoff projections.
Congratulations to Michigan for their win over Ohio State (coach Jim Harbaugh's first victory in six tries). This is also the first time that Michigan won the Big Ten East Division (first year was 2014) and the first time Michigan will play in the Big Ten Championship Game (first year was 2011). Over in the West Division, Wisconsin was on a roll but lost at Minnesota which put Iowa into the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2015. The Eastern Division is a perfect 7-0 vs. the Western Division in the East vs. West format (Ohio State 2014, 2017-2020, Penn State 2016, Michigan State 2015). The Big Ten probably needs Michigan to have a team in the Playoff. The Big Ten had a two loss team win the Championship in 2016 (Penn State) and 2017 (Ohio State) and both of them were denied Playoff bids. The 2017 Ohio State team lost out to a team that didn't even win its division.
As for Ohio State, they might have had a shot at the Playoff if they hadn't played Oregon this year. I'll rip into the SEC in the SEC section. Ohio State played and lost to Oklahoma and the "2nd loss" likely kept them out of the Playoff while Alabama got in instead. It looks like the Buckeyes will be heading to Pasadena if Michigan wins the Big 10 Championship and another New Year's Six bowl if Iowa does.
Big Ten Championship Prediction: Michigan over Iowa (Seems weird not saying Ohio State over Wisconsin)
This is the SEC in 2021. Florida, Auburn, and LSU all finished 6-6. Florida and LSU fired their head coaches. Texas A&M lost to both Mississippi schools. I didn't know it was possible to lose to both Mississippi schools in the same season. Yet the Alabama Crimson Tide needed four overtimes to put away 6-6 Auburn and didn't score a touchdown until the final minute, beat 6-6 Florida by two points, beat 6-6 LSU by six points, and lost to Texas A&M. I so wish Ohio State could have had a shot at Alabama this year. Alabama would have lost three or four games in the Big Ten this year. Mississippi went 10-2 in the SEC because the SEC sucked. It would be like last year when Indiana and Northwestern did well. Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin were all down.
But the SEC has 13 out of 14 teams that are bowl eligible (6-6 or better). But how great an accomplishment is that? SEC teams play eight conference games while Big Ten teams play nine. Only half of the 14 Big Ten teams this year played an FCS opponent this season. The last season Ohio State played an FCS team was 2013 (Florida A&M) and they have three FBS non conference games scheduled every season until 2026. Michigan's last FCS opponent was 2010 (UMass was still FCS then) and they have three FBS non conference games until 2025. If Rutgers wants to play FCS teams, they need wins. There's no reason Ohio State or Michigan should be playing FCS cupcakes other than to get home games and MAC teams can do that. I'm embarrassed Penn State plays FCS teams. If Penn State is getting Villanova men's basketball games out of the deal to play Villanova football, it makes sense. There's no reason for PSU to play Delaware.
Meanwhile, this year EVERY SEC team played an FCS opponent. I can understand Vanderbilt wanting/needing to play FCS teams (especially when Vanderbilt can't even beat them, they lost 23-3!!!) Why does Alabama have to play FCS teams? They'll beat most teams they beat badly. In addition, the SEC went 6-0 vs. the Sun Belt Conference, 6-0 vs. Conference USA, and 5-0 vs. the Mid American Conference. At least the Sun Belt and C-USA are in the SEC's backyard, why does the SEC need to schedule a bunch of MAC teams? Meanwhile, the SEC played ONE game vs. the Big Ten (and lost it). Florida is bowl eligible. They won TWO SEC games and one of them was Vanderbilt. They allowed 52 points vs. an FCS team! When you play nine conference games, you have to win at least three of them to be bowl eligible. Illinois finished 5-7. If the Big Ten only played eight conference games and Illinois traded a Big Ten loss for an FCS team, Illinois goes bowling. Maybe Ohio State should take the SEC approach to non conference games. Twice in the last five years they lost a non conference game and if they replaced them with an FCS team or even a MAC team they'd have a great chance to make the Playoff, especially in 2017 when they won the Big Ten. The College Playoff Committee could make a statement and reward an Ohio State or similar team for scheduling games like this or punishing SEC teams for cupcake schedules but they don't.
If Alabama beats the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday in Atlanta, they deserve to make the Playoff. There is talk about Alabama making the Playoff even if they lose to Georgia. If they do, it will be the biggest joke in College Football Playoff history. This SEC should be happy to get any team in the Playoff and only because this Georgia team is clearly running circles around the SEC and college football this year. If Georgia beats Alabama and Alabama is ranked #4, I'd be ticked off if I were Georgia and I had to beat them again in the semifinals.
SEC Championship Game Prediction: Georgia over Alabama
The Cincinnati Bearcats have completed a perfect undefeated regular season. Now comes the AAC Championship Game vs. Houston. Houston is no pushover, going 11-1, losing only their season opener vs. Texas Tech, and also going a perfect 8-0 in the AAC (Cincinnati and Houston did not play in the regular season). Last week, Alabama was #3 in the College Football Playoff rankings and Cincinnati was #4. After Alabama's near miss vs. Auburn, Cincinnati should move up over Alabama although this is the SEC favoritist committee who last year ranked a THREE loss Florida over an undefeated Cincy last year.
I wouldn't put anything past the CFP Committee in terms of screwing over Cincinnati but the nightmare scenario I can see Cincinnati getting left out would be if Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC Championship, Michigan wins the Big Ten, and a one loss Oklahoma State wins the Big 12. Oklahoma State was #7 in the CFP rankings last Tuesday. In the Coaches Poll today, they jumped over both Ohio State and Notre Dame to #5 (Cincinnati is #4). If these are the CFP rankings, it's not hard to see Oklahoma State jump Cincinnati after beating #9 Baylor vs. #16 Houston (and Houston was #24 in Tuesday's rankings while Baylor was #8). Cincinnati would like to see an upset or two (other than Georgia getting upset, that's the upset they DON'T want).
AAC Championship Game Prediction: Cincinnati over Houston
While Michigan finally overcame their Nemesis in Ohio State, the Oklahoma State Cowboys did the same over their in state rival Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12. The best thing for them is that Oklahoma is now out of the Big 12 Championship Game as the Baylor Bears will play Oklahoma State in Jerry World instead. Oklahoma State ranked below Notre Dame (#6) in Tuesday's Playoff rankings but beat Oklahoma (#10). If the Coaches poll is any indication, Oklahoma State should jump Notre Dame. At the worst, Oklahoma State should jump Notre Dame if they beat Baylor and wins the Big 12 Championship. The question then would be should they beat Cincinnati? In previous FanPosts, I've said the Committee loves the Big 12 almost as much as the SEC so I wouldn't put it past them. Oklahoma State lost to a five loss Iowa State this year. I would say Oklahoma State would like it better though if Georgia beats Alabama (or if Iowa beats Michigan or Houston beats Cincinnati). Also I wouldn't think Oklahoma State winning is a guarantee. Their wins over Baylor and Oklahoma were both at home, can they win on a neutral field? If Baylor wins the Big 12, the Big 12 will get shut out of the Playoff.
Big 12 Championship Game Prediction: Oklahoma State over Baylor
This is why you join a conference, Notre Dame. Notre Dame would have a good chance of winning this year's ACC with Clemson down and the 13th data point might have put Notre Dame into the Playoff instead of Oklahoma State. Right now, they will have to sit back and hope Oklahoma State and Alabama lose (Michigan losing can also help).
As for the ACC Championship Game, no effect on the Playoff as the two teams currently rank #17 and #18.
ACC Championship Game Prediction: Pittsburgh over Wake Forest
The Pac-12 will sit out the Playoff as well. The Pac-12 Championship will determine one of the Rose Bowl participants. The game is a rematch of last week's 38-7 rout that eliminated Oregon from Playoff consideration. Has that much changed in two weeks? Also, this is Utah's chance to play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since they joined the Pac-12 and two years ago Utah had a chance to make the Playoff and Oregon ended it. Do you think the Utes forgot? I doubt it. For Ohio State to make the Playoff there would have to be massive chaos and in addition Oregon can't win the Pac-12 because a two loss non Ohio State can't make it over a two loss Pac-12 champion Oregon that beat them so go Utah!
Pac 12 Championship Game Prediction: Utah over Oregon
College Football Playoff Prediction:
Before I get to my prediction, here's the ranks of the eventual Playoff teams the Tuesday before the Playoff.
2014: 1, 2, 4, 5 (#3 TCU out)
2015: 1, 2, 3, 5 (#4 Iowa out)
2016: 1, 2, 3, 4
2017: 1, 3, 5, 6 (#2 Auburn, #4 Wisconsin out)
2018: 1, 2, 3, 5 (#4 Georgia out)
2019: 1, 2, 3, 6 (#4 Georgia out)
2020: 1, 2, 3, 4
The lowest ranked team to make the Playoff was #6.
The only top four team to drop out after not losing was 2014 TCU (they won but #5 Ohio State won 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship and bumped them out).
The only non top four team to move up without winning a conference championship was #5 Alabama in 2017.
The only team to lose its conference championship and stay in the Playoff was #2 Notre Dame in 2020.
The #1 team going into Championship Week is a perfect 7-0 in conference championship games. That's good news for, I assume, Georgia, as well as teams that need Alabama to lose.
I would guess the top six teams in some order will be Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, and Notre Dame.
Assuming the teams I picked win,
Orange Bowl: #1 Georgia (13-0) vs. #4 Oklahoma State (12-1), 2nd game
Cotton Bowl: #2 Michigan (12-1) vs. #3 Cincinnati (13-0), 1st game
I could see Oklahoma State and Cincinnati being swapped.
Should Alabama beat Georgia, I'll say it is #1 Alabama vs. #4 Cincinnati in the Orange and #2 Georgia vs. #3 Michigan in the Cotton. If Oklahoma State loses (and Georgia and Michigan wins), I'll say Notre Dame moves into the #4 slot and they will laugh at all of us for saying they have to join a conference to make the Playoff.
New Year's Six Bowls:
Rose Bowl: Ohio State (10-2) vs. Utah (10-3)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (11-2) vs. Baylor (10-3)
Peach Bowl: Pittsburgh (11-2) vs. Mississippi (10-2)
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame (11-1) vs. Michigan State (10-2)
Michigan State can fight Mississippi for the Peach but the Peach seems to be more of an SEC site.
New Year's Day Bowls:
Citrus Bowl: Iowa (10-3) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)
Outback Bowl: Penn State (7-5) vs. Kentucky (9-3) - Ticket $ales, Penn State hasn't been to Tampa since 2011.
Big Ten Bowls:
Las Vegas Bowl: Wisconsin (8-4)
Music City Bowl: Minnesota (8-4)
Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Phoenix: Purdue (8-4)
Pinstripe Bowl: Maryland (6-6)