College football bowl projections: Michigan into New Year’s Six, Cincinnati must look like a playoff team


It was another weekend that saw a couple top 10 teams lose, but we will get to that in a moment. First, let’s discuss one particular team still in my College Football Playoff projections for now and how the CFP Selection Committee is evaluating it: Cincinnati.

The Bearcats came in sixth in the first CFP Rankings released Tuesday night, and there was the usual hue and cry over the mistreatment of it as a non-Power Five school. Unfortunately for the Bearcats, other than that big win at Notre Dame, it’s like committee chairman Gary Barta said, “Who else did they beat?”

Nobody of note. The rest of Cincinnati’s schedule is pretty bad, and that was true before the Tulsa result was added. In fact, when you consider that Navy (2-7), Tulane (1-8) and one of the season’s most disappointing teams in Indiana (2-7) are already on it, Tulsa may have been an upgrade.

However, style points matter. They’ve always mattered, and Cincinnati did not play well against Navy, Tulane and Tulsa. In fact, the Bearcats could have lost a couple of those games, and that will definitely be held against them.

That level of play must change. Cincinnati must look like a playoff team every time it takes the field the rest of the way if it actually wants to be one. There is nothing wrong with a 52-7 win that a 59-7 win wouldn’t cure. You want to play with the likes of Alabama? Beat these teams like Alabama would.

That said, I must draw the line at a particular comment made by from Barta on Tuesday night’s post-release media call. About the Tulane game, he commented that the Green Wave “ran the ball effectively against [the Bearcats]. They started a freshman QB.”

Who cares if Tulane ran the ball well? Tulane had 280 yards of total offense in that game and had averaged 403 yards going into it. Does it matter that 187 of those yards came on the ground? Would the committee have felt better about that performance if Cincinnati gave up 93 yards rushing and 187 yards passing? Also, two teams ahead of Cincinnati in the rankings start freshmen quarterbacks. I am not saying that Tulane’s QB measures up, but the age of an opposing quarterback should be irrelevant.

The other problem with last week’s CFP Rankings explanation did not involve Cincinnati. Barta and CFP executive director Bill Hancock have insisted that “game control” is not a factor; however, on that Tuesday call, when Barta was asked about Notre Dame, he had this to say about last week’s game. “Just using this last week’s game as an example, at halftime in [sic] North Carolina, the game was 17-13.”

The halftime score. That’s all he mentioned. So, the halftime score is meaningful and that’s “game control” whether they use the term or not. It’s definitely a factor for the committee, which means that, yes, teams need to be concerned about their halftime scores. They should also worry about their end of first quarter scores, and probably their 6:23 to go in the third quarter scores. It’s not enough to win. The message here is that it’s better to score early than late to get to the same result. That absolutely should not matter.

I assume the committee will be more pleased with Notre Dame’s 17-3 lead at the half this week against Navy but might hold that 3-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter against the Fighting Irish. And yes, that sentence is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. Barta did not respond to a request for comment.

In this week’s projections, the only change among the New Year’s Six teams came as Kentucky dropped out following a loss to Tennessee at home. That is the third straight defeat for the Wildcats after jumping out to a 6-0 start. There is no realistic path back to a New Year’s Six game for them now.

Replacing the Wildcats is Michigan, which defeated Indiana, 29-7. The Wolverines path to a New Year’s Six game is not easy as they still have games at Penn State and at home to Ohio State. However, if they split those two, Michigan will have a good chance at the New Year’s Six.

Purdue’s win over Michigan State does not change the Spartans’ projection as the Big Ten’s representative at the Rose Bowl. It also does not change their chances of getting into the CFP. If Sparty can win out, which would include a road win at Ohio State, they would be a lock for a spot in the final top four.

College Football Playoff

Jan. 10

National ChampionshipIndianapolis

Title game Semifinal winners

Dec. 31

Orange BowlMiami Gardens, Fla.

Semifinal

(1) Georgia vs. (4) Cincinnati

Dec. 31

Cotton BowlArlington, Texas

Semifinal

(2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Ohio State

New Year’s Six bowl games

Jan. 1

SugarNew Orleans

SEC vs. Big 12

Alabama vs. Oklahoma State

Jan. 1

RosePasadena, Calif.

Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Michigan State vs. Oregon

Jan. 1

FiestaGlendale, Ariz.

At-large vs. At-large

Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

Dec. 30

PeachAtlanta

At-large vs. At-large

Michigan vs. Ole Miss

This week, there are only two sub-.500 teams left in the projections, Hawaii and Missouri. That number is starting to dwindle, but I am not optimistic it will disappear entirely. There are currently 49 bowl-eligible teams, so we still have a ways to go with three weeks to get there.

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



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