November 29, 2021

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The Sports Fanatics

Bowl projections: Cincinnati’s College Football Playoff case strengthens with Pac-12 again eliminated

It was another big day for Cincinnati in its quest to become the first Group of Five team to play in the College Football Playoff. Oregon got drilled at Utah, 38-7, knocking the Ducks out of contention entirely and ensuring that the Pac-12 will not participate in the CFP for the sixth straight season. That is one more roadblock removed for the Bearcats, which did their part in a 48-14 thrashing of SMU. That was Cincinnati’s best performance in a month. 

Oregon’s loss does not change our end-of-season bowl projections, though, because the road defeat at Utah was already built into the process. The Ducks are still projected to win the Pac-12 and play in the Rose Bowl, which would mean winning a rematch with the Utes at a neutral site in a couple weeks.

The only other projected New Year’s Six team to lose Saturday was also previously forecasted. However, I did not think Michigan State would get embarrassed so badly at Ohio State. The Buckeyes obliterated the Spartans, 56-3. It’s unlikely that loss takes MSU out of a New Year’s Six bowl, but Michigan State needs to bounce back and close strong against Penn State next week. Michigan also had a huge blowout win in advance of its winner-take-all bout with Ohio State on Saturday at the Big House. This might be Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh’s best chance to finally win the game he was hired to win.

The Big 12 has also unfolded as expected. Oklahoma State clinched a spot in the conference championship game with a 23-0 win at Texas Tech. The Cowboys will host Oklahoma next Saturday with the Sooners needing either a win or a loss by Baylor (vs. Texas Tech) to advance to the league title game. A Baylor win and Oklahoma loss sends the Bears to Dallas to face the Pokes. Either the Sooners or the Cowboys have to win out for the Big 12 to have any shot at a place in the CFP, but the bowl projections have Oklahoma winning out and playing in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game against top-ranked Georgia by defeating Arkansas, 42-35. At this point, there is no scenario in which the Bulldogs are left out of the CFP. The Crimson Tide are definitely in with a victory, and they are projected to still get a spot even with a loss, but that is much less definite.

Given these results, for the first time all season, the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl projections stayed the same this week.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 10

National Championship
Indianapolis

Title game Semifinal winners

Dec. 31

Orange Bowl
Miami Gardens, Fla.

Semifinal

(1) Georgia vs. (4) Alabama

Dec. 31

Cotton Bowl
Arlington, Texas

Semifinal

(2) Ohio State vs. (3) Cincinnati

New Year’s Six bowl games

Jan. 1

Sugar
New Orleans

SEC vs. Big 12

Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma

Jan. 1

Rose
Pasadena, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Michigan vs. Oregon

Jan. 1

Fiesta
Glendale, Ariz.

At-large vs. At-large

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma State

Dec. 30

Peach
Atlanta

At-large vs. At-large

Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

There are three teams projected to finish 5-7 in the bowl projections again this week. Illinois and Rutgers from the Big Ten are still among that group. They are joined this time by Florida, which just lost at Missouri on Saturday. The Tigers became bowl-eligible with the win. The Gators last beat an FBS team on Oct. 9 when they trounced Vanderbilt. Florida ends up lucking into the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa against Miami. Or maybe that isn’t such great luck after all.

Don’t see your team? Check out the rest of Jerry Palm’s updated bowl projections.