None of the projected College Football Playoff contenders lost this week, a rarity in this chaotic 2021 season. It wasn't for a lack of trying, though.
For most of the afternoon against Kansas, projected No. 2 seed Oklahoma was trailing as a 38-point favorite. The Sooners came back and won by a deceptive 35-23 score, holding on to the second seed in this week's projections. No. 4 seed Cincinnati also had a tough fight with Navy, which has played well in the last month, even though the wins have been tough to come by. The Bearcats held off the Midshipmen 27-20 in Annapolis, Maryland, to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Projected No. 3 seed Ohio State is on a serious roll now. The Buckeyes demolished Indiana, 54-7. Whatever problems Ohio State seemed to be having with its defense a month ago appear to be gone now. You could reasonably argue that only No. 1 seed Georgia is playing better than the Buckeyes right now.
In the New Year's Six bowl projections, Penn State dropped out after losing in nine overtimes to Illinois. Injuries have hurt the Nittany Lions on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Sean Clifford was knocked out of the loss to Iowa, and star defensive lineman PJ Mustipher is out for the season with an injury suffered in that game as well. Things will not get any easier for Penn State. The Nittany Lions face aforementioned red-hot Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, next Saturday.
Kentucky, which had the weekend off, moved into the New Year's Six projections and is slated to face Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. The Wolverines blasted Northwestern 33-7 and remain undefeated heading into a clash with in-state rival and similarly unbeaten Michigan State next week.
Pittsburgh also joins the projections following a 27-17 win over Clemson. Combined with NC State's loss at Miami, the Panthers are now the projected ACC champion. They are expected to face Notre Dame in the Peach Bowl. The Fighting Irish beat USC 31-16 in a game that used to be appointment television.
College Football Playoff
|Date||Game / Loc.||Matchup||Prediction|
|Title game|| Semifinal winners|
(1) Georgia vs. (4) Cincinnati
(2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Ohio State
New Year's Six bowl games
|Date||Bowl / Location||Matchup||Prediction|
SEC vs. Big 12
|Alabama vs. Oklahoma State|
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
|Iowa vs. Oregon|
At-large vs. At-large
|Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh|
At-large vs. At-large
|Michigan vs. Kentucky|
With the Big Ten losing a team in the New Year's Six and the SEC gaining one, both leagues saw a shakeup throughout the rest of the bowl projections. Penn State is now slated for the Outback Bowl against Texas A&M, while Ole Miss moves up to the Citrus Bowl where it would be making a first-ever appearance. Michigan State is still the expected Big Ten team for that game.
There are some good matchups among some of the Group of Five teams also. UTSA is set to face Louisiana in the New Orleans Bowl, and San Diego State is expected to face SMU in the First Responder Bowl. Those games would feature teams with two or fewer losses. THEY are the only bowls outside the New Year's Six that could say that.
There are eight teams in the projections this week that are expected to finish below .500. That is down two from last week. Having this many sub-.500 teams in the projections this deep into the season means that it is likely we will have at least one such team in a bowl this season.