2021 College Football Bowl Projections: Repeat Playoff Teams Prove Expansion Talks Needed

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If it’s early August, it’s time to get ready for college football! It’s also time for preseason bowl screenings and a planned college football playoff pitch that features some pretty familiar names.

The projected No. 1 seed is Alabama again. The Crimson Tide lost a lot of talent to the NFL, as always. They also reloaded with a lot of talent that the NFL can’t wait to get their hands on, as always.

Alabama is expected to be in the Orange Bowl against future conference teammate and No.4 seed Oklahoma. The Sooners have been the dominant team in the Big 12, winning the last six conference championships; they are favored to extend that streak to seven. This game is expected to take place in Miami instead of the Cotton Bowl (technically closer for Alabama) as playing in Arlington, TX could be seen as an advantage for Oklahoma, which is even closer to the stadium.

In the Cotton Bowl, number 2 seed Clemson is expected to complete his seventh consecutive call for proposals. The Tigers are heavy favorites to repeat as ACC champions. The Ohio State third seed of the Big Ten is also heavily favored to win his conference. The Buckeyes are looking for a fifth straight Big Ten title and a fifth CFP appearance.

These four teams have combined to occupy 20 of the 28 total spots in the CFP’s first seven seasons. At least three of those four have been in each of the last six fields of the playoffs.

This is not a small part of the reasons why the CFP is seeking to expand. A 12-team proposal was announced in June, but is now on hold to wait to see how the new wave of conference realignment plays out.

College football playoff

January 10

National championship
Indianapolis

Title game Winners of the semi-finals

December 31st

Orange bowl
Miami Gardens, Florida

Semi final

(1) Alabama vs. (4) Oklahoma

December 31st

Cotton bowl
Arlington, Texas.

Semi final

(2) Clemson vs. (3) State of Ohio

The SEC looks like it’s having another big season with three other teams in the New Year’s Six screenings: Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU. The Bulldogs are set to face Iowa State in the Sugar Bowl as the Cyclones bring back much of the squad that won last season’s Big 12 regular season title.

LSU is screened at the Peach Bowl to face Notre Dame. The Tigers are expected to bounce back from a horrendous season that has been hit hard by strikeouts and other issues. The Fighting Irish became independent again after spending the COVID-19 pandemic season in the ACC.

The Fiesta Bowl screening at Texas A&M against Group of Five representative Cincinnati. Some predict the Bearcats will finish in the top 10 this season. Cincinnati is sent to the Fiesta Bowl instead of the much closer Peach Bowl because the Bearcats were in that game last season and the CFP selection committee distributes the group of five representative among the bowl games as evenly as possible.

The Rose Bowl is the only New Years’ non-playoff game without an SEC team due to its historic missions. Big Ten finalists Wisconsin are set to face Pac-12 champion Oregon in this game. The Ducks would rather become the first Pac-12 team to make the CFP since 2016, when Washington entered the field. It could happen if they can win at Ohio State on September 11.

New Year’s Bowls Six

January 1st

Sugar
New Orleans

SEC vs. Big 12

Georgia v Iowa State

January 1st

Pink
Pasadena, California

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Wisconsin vs. Oregon

January 1st

Party
Glendale, Arizona.

At-large vs At-large

Texas A&M vs. Cincinnati

December 30

The Peach
Atlanta

At-large vs At-large

LSU against Notre-Dame

There are 41 boules games this season, which means 82 teams will be needed to complete them. Those numbers would have been 42 and 84, but despite the lack of an official announcement, it looks like the Redbox Bowl is no more. That means one less bowl spot for the Big Ten and Pac-12, who have been entered for this game.

This is probably also good, because finding 82 teams eligible for the bowl will be difficult enough. It will be the most there has ever been in a single season, giving 63% of the FBS a playoff opportunity. This most recently happened in 2018. Chances are we will need to put 5-7 teams in bowl games for the first time since 2016.

In this projection, there are actually 11 teams under 0.500 in bowl games. It will probably be a lower number than that because I don’t pick up a lot of upset when showing games. The 5-7 teams are chosen based on the most recent academic progression rate, which dates from 2018-19. The TAP is usually updated at the start of the football season, so the ranking list will change. No Pac-12 team is in the 5-7 selections because the league requires teams to have at least a 6-6 record to participate in a bowl.

Hoping we have a full and uninterrupted season with the return of the fans, bands and pageantry unique to college football. Can’t see your team? Check out the rest of Jerry Palm’s 2021 preseason bowl screenings.

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