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Texas A&M turned the 2021 college football season on its head Saturday night by coming from behind late to beat No. 1 Alabama, 41-38, at Kyle Field. That result also turned the College Football Playoff projection on its head.

Let's start with the new projected No. 1 seed, the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia, which was already in the projected CFP field, won comfortably at Auburn on Saturday, 34-10. The Bulldogs appear to have the best defense in the country, and the stats back that up. The Dawgs are the top ranked team in relative total defense and relative scoring defense. And as we all know, defense wins championships.

The newly projected No. 4 seed would be historic if it comes to pass. Cincinnati is now expected to step in as the final team in the field, facing UGA in the Orange Bowl. That would be a rematch of last season's exciting Peach Bowl. The Bearcats would become the Group of Five program to be selected to play in the CFP if they win out.

Cincinnati throttled Temple on Friday, 52-3. Though the Bearcats cannot control their schedule, they can control how they play against it. Cincinnati handled Temple like a playoff team should. It is important for Cincy to continue doing that against such opponents.

It also needs help from Notre Dame, which will likely be its best win. Cincinnati needs that to look as good as possible. The Fighting Irish won late at Virginia Tech, 32-29, so they are still doing their part for the Bearcats.

Iowa knocked out Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford in the first half, then knocked off the Nittany Lions for good, 23-20. The Hawkeyes move up in the CFP projections to the No. 2 seed. They are expected to take on Oklahoma. The Sooners changed quarterbacks and their fortunes in a 55-48 come- from-behind win over Texas, the largest in Red River Showdown history. In this scenario, Oklahoma and Iowa would meet in the Cotton Bowl.

This projection is based on all four of these teams finishing undefeated. Most notably, that would mean second losses for each of Alabama and Ohio State in their respective conference championship games.

College Football Playoff

Date Game / Loc. Matchup Prediction

Jan. 10

National Championship

Title game Semifinal winners

Dec. 31

Orange Bowl
Miami Gardens, Fla.


(1) Georgia vs. (4) Cincinnati

Dec. 31

Cotton Bowl
Arlington, Texas


(2) Iowa vs. (3) Oklahoma

Alabama is now projected as the SEC representative in the Sugar Bowl. It is expected that the Crimson Tide would remain the second-highest rated team from the SEC in the final CFP Rankings, even though Kentucky is expected to finish 11-1. The Wildcats find themselves on the outside of the New Year's Six due to a poor strength of schedule.

Alabama is projected to face Texas, the second highest-rated team from the Big 12 which would be coming off another loss to Oklahoma, this time in the Big 12 Championship Game.

With Cincinnati moving up and Virginia Tech no longer projected to win the ACC, Notre Dame is now slated to face long-time rival Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. The Wolverines would be 10-2 with losses to Penn State and, as always, Ohio State. The Fiesta Bowl would normally get the Group of Five representative in the rotation this season, but Cincinnati is not available.

The Buckeyes would go to Atlanta to face projected ACC champion Wake Forest in the Peach Bowl. That leaves the Rose Bowl as the only New Year's Six game unchanged from last week. It still has Big Ten runner-up Penn State facing Pac-12 champion Oregon.

New Year's Six bowl games

Date Bowl / Location Matchup Prediction

Jan. 1

New Orleans

SEC vs. Big 12

Alabama vs. Texas

Jan. 1

Pasadena, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Penn State vs. Oregon

Jan. 1

Glendale, Ariz.

At-large vs. At-large

Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Dec. 30


At-large vs. At-large

Ohio State vs. Wake Forest

There are 10 teams in this week's bowl projections that are expected to finish below .500. One of those is Hawaii, which would be in at 6-7. Hawaii and anyone else who plays a game there is eligible to play 13 regular season games, and 6-7 takes precedence over 5-7. There are also nine 5-7 teams in the field, all but one of which come from Power Five conferences. That is a coincidence, though, because APR is used to decide which 5-7 teams become bowl eligible.

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