No. 7 Cincinnati’s 24-13 victory over No. 9 Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday could be the impetus for a historic event — the first team from the Group of Five qualifying for the College Football Playoff. First things first, though: The Bearcats will have to finish the season with a perfect 13-0 record.
The only other time a Group of Five team in this position came in 2016 when Houston opened the campaign ranked 15th with home games scheduled against preseason No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 19 Louisville. A 13-0 season by the Cougars would have merited serious discussion for the CFP. Houston won the two big nonconference games but suffered three losses in conference play, so we never got to find out how the CFP Selection Committee would have viewed them.
If Cincinnati can finish the job, there are scenarios that may put the Bearcats into the playoff. In short, the committee needs to be in a situation where there is no other viable candidate for the fourth spot. There is no guarantee that Cincinnati would get selected over a one-loss non-champion from the SEC or Big Ten. Even a two-loss SEC team with losses to Alabama and Georgia might be a contender to Cincinnati. The Bearcats should be favored over any other major conference team, champion or otherwise, with at least one loss.
It would also help Cincinnati if its two major opponents played well from here on out so those wins look as good as possible at the end of the season. Notre Dame just has the loss to the Bearcats, so there is some hope for the Fighting Irish. However, preseason No. 17 Indiana is sitting at 2-3 following Saturday night’s 24-0 loss at Penn State. The Hoosiers do not look anything like the team that went 6-1 in last year’s shortened season, nor do they look like they can be competitive at all in the stacked Big Ten East. Cincinnati could really use a turnaround by the Hoosiers.
Cincinnati, however, got some much needed help Saturday when No. 3 Oregon self-destructed late at Stanford, losing 31-24 in overtime. The Pac-12 would now need something of a chaos scenario to get back into playoff contention.
Oklahoma keeps playing with fire, but so far, it has not been burned. The No. 4 Sooners got out of Kansas State with a 37-31 victory. All four of their wins over FBS teams have been by seven points or fewer. Oklahoma faces Texas next week as it drops to the No. 4 seed in the playoff despite its victory and Oregon’s loss.
The new projected No. 3 seed is Iowa. The Hawkeyes have been the best team in the Big Ten through the first five weeks of the season. Certainly, no other team in the Big Ten West has been anywhere near the quality of Iowa. The Hawkeyes destroyed Maryland 51-14 on the road on Friday night.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia posted dominant wins over No. 12 Ole Miss and No. 8 Arkansas, respectively, to remain the expected top two seeds in the CFP. However, the Crimson Tide have shifted to the Orange Bowl from their previous projection to the Cotton Bowl.
Let’s take a look at the new CFP projection. A updated slate of bowl projections will be available Sunday afternoon.
College Football Playoff
Title game Semifinal winners
Orange BowlMiami Gardens, Fla.
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Oklahoma
Cotton BowlArlington, Texas
(2) Georgia vs. (3) Iowa
The loss by Oregon drops the Ducks to the Pac-12 spot in the Rose Bowl as the expected league champion. They are projected to face Big Ten runner-up Penn State, which is finally able to find a spot in the New Year’s Six projections as Oregon’s loss meant there is now no need for a second Pac-12 team.
Like last week, we still have two rematches in the New Year’s Six games. Notre Dame is still projected to face Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl, while Arkansas and Texas meet in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State is now the expected opponent for Cincinnati in the Fiesta Bowl. Those two teams last met in 2019 in Columbus, Ohio, where the Buckeyes cruised to a 42-0 win.
New Year’s Six bowl games
SEC vs. Big 12
Arkansas vs. Texas
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Penn State vs. Oregon
At-large vs. At-large
Ohio State vs. Cincinnati
At-large vs. At-large
Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame
Some unexpected results in the SEC have led to some shuffling of that league’s bowl matchups. Kentucky’s upset of Florida sees the Wildcats move up to the Citrus Bowl to face Michigan State, while the Gators remain in the Outback Bowl to face Michigan. Texas A&M’s loss to Mississippi State at home means the Aggies are now slotted for the Music City Bowl against Minnesota. LSU has fallen out of the bowl projections entirely after losing at home to Auburn. The Bayou Bengals play three of their next four on the road and may not be favored again the rest of the season except in their nonconference game against ULM in November.
There are still 10 teams expected to be 5-7 in the bowl projections this week. Among those is Wisconsin, which turned in another awful performance in a 38-13 loss at home to Michigan on Saturday. The Big Ten West looks like Iowa and a pile of mediocrity, although Nebraska is playing better of late..
Don’t see your team? Check out the rest of Jerry Palm’s updated bowl projections.