College football bowl projections: Oregon ousts Ohio State for playoff spot, UCLA and Iowa in New Year’s Six
For those of you who are tired of seeing the same teams in the College Football Playoff — and there are many of you — the first two weeks of the 2021 season must be warming the cockles of your hearts. The CFP projection has changed twice in as many weeks with Clemson and now Ohio State on the outside looking in.
First, Georgia defeated Clemson 10-3 in a defensive slugfest to cap Week 1, effectively taking away the Tigers’ ability to control their own fate in the CFP chase. Then on Saturday, No. 12 Oregon traveled to Columbus, Ohio, and knocked off No. 3 Ohio State, 35-28.
That is not only a huge win for the Ducks but also for the beleaguered Pac-12. The conference is looking to put a team in the CFP for the first time since Washington claimed a spot five seasons ago. Oregon has given life to those hopes.
In fact, the Ducks are now projected to be the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff, projected to face No. 1-seed Alabama. Some things never change, and the Crimson Tide at the top of the projections is seemingly one of those things.
The other semifinal is now projected to be No. 2 Georgia vs. No. 3 Oklahoma. The Bulldogs had a surprisingly easy time with UAB on Saturday, while the Sooners are taking care of Western Carolina.
College Football Playoff
Title game Semifinal winners
Miami Gardens, Fla.
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Oregon
(2) Georgia vs. (3) Oklahoma
These results also had a ripple effect on the New Year’s Six games. Ohio State is still projected to be the Big Ten champion, though I am not as confident in that as I was on Friday. The Buckeyes are now slotted for the Rose Bowl, which needs a new Pac-12 team, forcing me to go outside of my projected top 12 to get one. That team is now UCLA, which is off to a roaring start this season as USC and Utah struggled with losses to unranked teams this week.
There is one other team in the New Year’s Six projection that is not expected to finish in the top 12. That is Iowa State, which is still expected to take the Big 12’s spot in the Sugar Bowl despite the loss to Iowa on Saturday. Unfortunately for Penn State and Florida, being predicted to finish in the top 12 is not enough to get into the New Year’s Six projections at this time. Contractual obligations by the bowls to the conferences take precedence.
The Hawkeyes are new to the New Year’s Six projections this week. They are the new projected opponent for Group of Five representative Cincinnati in the Fiesta Bowl. Clemson and Notre Dame are still expected to meet in the Peach Bowl. The Tigers bounced back from the loss to Georgia with a blowout of South Carolina State. The Fighting Irish struggled for the second straight week, this time in a 32-29 win over Toledo in their home opener.
New Year’s Six bowl games
SEC vs. Big 12
Texas A&M vs. Iowa State
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Ohio State vs. UCLA
At-large vs. At-large
Iowa vs. Cincinnati
At-large vs. At-large
Clemson vs. Notre Dame
The most shuffling in the projections for the rest of the bowls occurred in the Big Ten and Pac-12 due to the teams expected to be at the top of those leagues moving around and some other upsets in the Pac-12.
Looking ahead, the biggest game in Week 3 is Alabama at Florida. This is a huge opportunity for the Gators to stake their claim as a contender in the SEC. Auburn will also visit Penn State in a top 25 showdown that is a rare trip outside of the SEC footprint for the Tigers. The last time Auburn played a regular season nonconference game this far from home was at Kansas State in 2014.
Cincinnati has the first of its marquee nonconference games on Saturday at Indiana. Some of the luster has gone off of that game since the Hoosiers got blown out at Iowa to start the season, but it is still an important game for Cincinnati if it hopes to make a case for inclusion in the College Football Playoff.
The number of 5-7 teams left in the bowl projections is down to seven. I expect that to dwindle further as the season rolls along, but I’ll be surprised if it ever gets to zero with this many bowl games. Though, we do now have one less bowl game this season. The Redbox Bowl, which featured teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12, was officially canceled this week. That is the second consecutive year it has been axed. It seems unlikely that this game will ever return. This does not affect my bowl projections because I never had it on my list of games.
Don’t see your team? Check out the rest of Jerry Palm’s updated bowl projections.