With Championship Week now in the rearview mirror, a lot of questions have been answered in regards to the final pairings in the New Year’s Six bowl games. The College Football Playoff committee dodged a few bullets on Saturday. As a result, the four playoff teams and matchups seem very straight forward. I would be very surprised if we do not see the following:
- Cotton Bowl: No. 1 Alabama versus No. 4 Cincinnati
- Orange Bowl: No. 2 Michigan versus No. 3 Georgia
The committee could swap the location of those two bowls. They could also even make Michigan No. 1 and Georgia No. 4. Either way, these matchups seem inevitable. The only other option would be to match up Georgia and Alabama again in the semifinals, and that would be idiotic.
In addition, two of the other New Year’s Six bowls seem virtually locked in. I will go ahead and take an educated guess as to the final ranking of each team.
- Rose Bowl: No. 13 Utah versus No. 6 Ohio State
- Sugar Bowl: No. 7 Baylor versus No. 8 Ole Miss
This leaves No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 12 Pittsburgh. Those four teams in some combination will almost certainly be matched up in the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. No. 11 BYU is the “last team out,” when it comes to the New Year’s Six bowls.
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh almost certainly won’t play each other, as Notre Dame is an affiliate member of the ACC. So I see only two possibilities:
- Peach Bowl: No. 10 Michigan State versus No. 12 Pittsburgh
- Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Notre Dame versus No. 9 Oklahoma State
- Peach Bowl: No. 10 Michigan State versus No. 5 Notre Dame
- Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 Oklahoma State versus No. 12 Pittsburgh
It is hard to imagine Oklahoma State getting sent to Atlanta as the only team on the list that is west of the Mississippi River. To avoid a Notre Dame/Pitt matchup, this forces Michigan State to play in the Peach Bowl.
I should note that late Saturday, Jerry Palm of CBS did predict a Notre Dame/Pittsburgh paring in the Peach Bowl, leaving Michigan State to face Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. One of ESPN’s two prognosticators also makes this prediction. I find this scenario very unlikely.
I am guessing that Oklahoma State will wind up ranked slightly higher than Michigan State in the final playoff poll. Based on this, I think that Michigan State is most likely to face Pittsburgh in Atlanta. The storyline of Coach Pat Narduzzi facing his former team would be a fun angle (Narduzzi is of course Michigan State’s former defensive coordinator from 2007-2014).
Then again, the history of the Michigan State/Notre Dame rivalry might be significant enough to make this potential matchup more compelling to the powers-that-be. It would be easy enough for the committee to bump Oklahoma State down one more slot to No. 10, which would make the justification a little cleaner. This would not shock me either.
That said, there is one other scenario that I can imagine. It seems like an extreme long shot, but I think that it is worth mentioning.
Notre Dame and Ohio State are likely to finish No. 5 and No. 6. It would be possible to pair those two teams up by arranging the following matchups:
- Peach Bowl: No. 5 Notre Dame versus No. 6 Ohio State
- Rose Bowl: No. 10 Michigan State versus No. 13 Utah
- Fiesta Bowl: No 9 Oklahoma State versus No. 12 Pittsburgh
Based on my projected final rankings, these matchups would provide the most competitive contests in each of those three games.
In order for this to happen, there would have to be a significant amount of political maneuvering. The Rose Bowl would need to be convinced that Ohio State and Buckeyes fans would not be as enthusiastic as Michigan State and Spartans fans would be to travel to southern California to face Utah. Once again, this is extremely unlikely, but I think the odds are at least greater than zero.
Either way, all will be revealed later today. ESPN will air the College Football Playoff Selection Show at noon. The College Football Playoff teams will be announced at 12:15 p.m., while the remaining New Year’s Six matchups, including Michigan State’s fate, will be revealed at 2:30 p.m.
The 2021 Peach Bowl will be played on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021 at 7 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
The 2022 Fiesta Bowl will be played on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, at 1 p.m. at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Just is case, the 2022 Rose Bowl will be played on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, at 5 p.m. at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. All three games will be aired on ESPN.
Stay tuned to The Only Colors for coverage of Michigan State’s bowl game, wherever it will be. Until then, Go Green.