Final 2021 College Football Playoff Projections

Hello, college football/Big Ten fans!

It's Selection Sunday! OK, it's not the real Selection Sunday in March but for college football fans it will do.

First a recap of Saturday's games.

The Michigan Wolverines won their first Big Ten Conference Championship Game in convincing fashion, 42-3, over Iowa. Nothing is official until the College Football Playoff Committee announces their final rankings but I'd like to see them leave a 12-1 Big Ten Michigan team they had ranked #2 in their ranking on Tuesday and won 42-3 out.

The biggest change from my predictions all season is that the Alabama Crimson Tide must have been playing possum all season. This is from my post last week: "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. "

So of course they beat the previously #1 and undefeated Georgia Bulldogs Saturday. Alabama is definitely in Georgia's head. Everything was in Georgia's favor and Alabama still won. There's probably people reading this FanPost that don't even remember the last time Georgia beat Alabama. It was 2007, Nick Saban was in his first season at Alabama, and Matt Stafford was the quarterback for Georgia! It was a magical season for Georgia but now comes the reality, they're not winning the national championship unless they beat Alabama (or unless someone else does).

The Cincinnati Bearcats completed a perfect 13-0 undefeated season by beating Houston and winning the AAC Championship. Cincinnati entered Saturday #4 in the CFP Rankings but Oklahoma State was #5 and was playing #9 Baylor. There was a decent chance that Oklahoma State could jump Cincinnati in the rankings even if Cincinnati won. But earlier in the day, Baylor beat Oklahoma Baylor's defense stopped Oklahoma State on 4th and short late in the 4th quarter. Even with Alabama beating Georgia, it looks like there will be a place in the Playoff for Cincinnati as the fans stormed the field. I doubt they would be storming the field for just an ordinary AAC Championship. They "know" they are going. Their win over Notre Dame at South Bend removes all doubt (or the Selection Committee will be slammed by everyone in sports media including me if they dare put Notre Dame or anyone else and leave Cincinnati out now). Would Cincinnati have been left out had Oklahoma State? No one in Cincinnati cares about that now. They're partying in Cincinnati and the CFP Committee has no choice, put them in!

The Rankings:

The easy part is picking the four teams: Michigan, Alabama, Georgia, Cincinnati. Now we have to rank them. Cincinnati is the only undefeated team but the AAC is definitely weaker than both the Big Ten and SEC. Alabama proved they were better than Georgia on a neutral field so we can throw Georgia out. That leaves Alabama and Michigan. I know this is Off Tackle Empire and a Big Ten fan site but let me try to tackle this objectively. Michigan was #2 and should move up to #1, especially if they won 42-3. But Alabama was #3 and beat the former #1 and very convincingly (I was frustrated because I'm sick of Alabama and the SEC so I turned it off early in the fourth quarter). Michigan has the win over Ohio State but there is no bigger cap than taking down Georgia this year. Michigan clearly has the better loss, losing to 10-2 Michigan State vs. 8-4 Texas A&M.

Even if Michigan is ranked #1 over Alabama, there is nothing stopping the Committee from ranking Cincinnati #3 and Georgia #4. I don't remember the Committee ever being in this situation before but I can't imagine anyone ioutside of Ann Arbor wants to see Alabama vs. Georgia in the semifinals. If the Committee believes Michigan is the #1 team, would they change the rankings for #3 and #4 to avoid a rematch? Michigan fans remember back in 2006 they were screwed out of a rematch with Ohio State even though it was very debatable whether they were better than Florida. I'm sure Michigan fans want to see Michigan #1 and Cincinnati #4 and let the SEC teams kill each other in the semifinals again. The Committee and many fans don't. It may not be the "right" rankings but if there's any doubt humans will probably set it up to avoid the rematch whether it is ranking Alabama #1 or Cincinnati #3.

If I had to project or predict what the Committee will do, absolutely they will put Alabama first based on their past experiences. Alabama was chosen over Ohio State in 2017. Georgia (with TWO losses) was ranked higher than Ohio State (with one) in 2018. A THREE loss Florida team was ranked above an UNDEFEATED Cincinnati last year. A one loss (only to Indiana) team was ranked behind a THREE loss Iowa State team. Does the Committee respect the Big Ten? Oh heck no! It wouldn't surprise me if the Committee ranked GEORGIA 2nd and Michigan 3rd! What do I think the rankings should be? This might be my last post at Off Tackle Empire for saying this (unless the boss is an Ohio State fan:) but because Georgia was the #1 team all year and Alabama beat them I would say Alabama is #1. And to Off Tackle Empire, I did say Ohio State deserved to be in the Playoff in 2017 over Alabama! So if the boss is a Michigan fan, I'm screwed!

Final 2021 Projections:

Cotton Bowl: (1) Alabama, 12-1, SEC Champions vs. (4) Cincinnati, 13-0, AAC Champions, 1st Game

Orange Bowl: (2) Michigan, 12-1, Big Ten Champions, vs. (3) Georgia, 12-1, At Large, 2nd Game

Alabama is 605 miles away from Dallas (AT&T Stadium) and 764 miles from Miami (Hard Rock Stadium) and they are in the Central Time Zone with Dallas so I'm guessing they will be in the Cotton if they had a choice. Alabama played in both stadiums last year en route to the national championship. As to which game is first and which is second, it could go either way. Alabama is the most popular of the four teams but you'd have an SEC team and a Big Ten team in the other game vs. an SEC team and an AAC team so the combination of SEC vs. Big Ten would likely lead to better TV ratings. On the other hand, you'd have the "Cinderella" story of Cincinnati which could draw interest. I could see it going either way. These games are on Dec. 31 so an edge to the Cotton Bowl being second could come into play as you don't want a semifinal ending close to midnight on the East Coast, having the Cotton Bowl second gives them an extra hour to play with.

New Year's Six:

Rose Bowl: Utah clinched it's spot as the Pac-12 champ. The highest rated Big Ten team will likely be Ohio State, currently #7 in the CFP rankings: Utah (10-3) vs. Ohio State (10-2), Jan. 1, 5pm

Sugar Bowl: Baylor, unless somehow they sneak into the Playoff, will go to the Sugar as Big 12 champion. With Georgia and Alabama in the Playoff, the Sugar will have to settle for Mississippi. Baylor and Mississippi in the Sugar would be like Rutgers and Oregon State in the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the city of New Orleans want to kill themselves. I hope there's a good basketball game on at the same time. Baylor (11-2) vs. Mississippi, Jan. 1, 8:30pm

Peach Bowl/Fiesta Bowl: Pittsburgh will get a bid as ACC Champ. Notre Dame, currently #6 in the CFP rankings, should stay in. Oklahoma State will fall but likely stay in. Michigan State is the highest ranked of the remaining teams (#10 Oregon will likely drop out). So those four are your four teams. All four teams including Oklahoma State are geographically closer to Atlanta than Phoenix. Oklahoma State is relatively close enough (855 miles to Atlanta vs. 1033 miles to Phoenix) so geographically they make the most sense to go to the Fiesta but one of the three other teams has to go. Of the three, Pittsburgh is the lowest ranked now but after winning the ACC could jump over Michigan State and force MSU out to the Arizona desert where no one wants to go. But then you have Pittsburgh and Notre Dame in the Peach and Notre Dame regularly plays ACC opponents. If you force Pittsburgh out to the Fiesta it will be as big a dud as Baylor-Ole Miss. The Committee would probably love Notre Dame-Oklahoma State the most but Notre Dame has earned the right to choose its bowl location likely being the highest ranked. They could have Notre Dame-Oklahoma State in the Peach and Pittsburgh-Michigan State in the Fiesta but then you screw two teams from the East instead of one. It would be better to screw Notre Dame. Notre Dame's athletic director

Jack Swarbrick is part of a committee to expand the Playoff so he probably has clout with the committee and Notre Dame won't be forced to go to the desert against their will. But because I dislike Notre Dame, I'll make them go to the Fiesta, screw them!

Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame (11-1) vs. Oklahoma State (11-2), Jan. 1, 1pm

Peach Bowl: Michigan State (10-2) vs. Pittsburgh (11-2), Dec. 30, 7pm

Big Ten Bowls:

After Iowa's beatdown, do they drop in the bowl pecking order? The old bowl agreements wanted as many different teams in each bowl as possible (example, five different teams in six years in the Citrus and Outback Bowls). I don't know if those carried over to the new bowl agreements. The new bowl agreements started with the 2020 season (last year) but I'm guessing bowls might tend to favor schools that haven't been to the bowl in a while.

Citrus: Iowa (10-3, last 2005) vs. Texas A&M (8-4, never been to Citrus)

Outback: Penn State (7-5, last 2011) vs. Kentucky (9-3, last 1999)

Las Vegas Bowl: Wisconsin (8-4)

Music City Bowl: Minnesota (8-4)

Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Phoenix: Purdue (8-4)

Pinstripe Bowl: Maryland (6-6)

Relevant: Purdue was in the Music City Bowl in 2018, Minnesota was last there in 2005. Would the Music City Bowl rather have closer Purdue or think Purdue was there too recently and take Minnesota instead?