2021 SEC Bowl projections after Week 1
The College Football Playoff picture needed all of one week for a big shakeup.
The collision on Saturday between Georgia and Clemson figured to have huge stakes, and it did. It is really difficult to go undefeated in a 12-game college football regular season, but, going into the season, I thought Clemson was the most likely team to do it.
Now I think it’s Georgia.
After the Bulldogs defeated the Tigers 10-3 on Saturday in Charlotte, UGA looks as likely as anybody to navigate the next 3 months cleanly and reach conference championship weekend unblemished. The Dawgs don’t have to play Alabama or Texas A&M in the regular season, and the rest of the nonconference schedule should be a cakewalk. Florida and Auburn are probably the toughest hurdles remaining.
Yes, we are looking way, way ahead. But that’s what bowl projections are for, right?
So with that, Georgia is now projected to go to the CFP — even if (and this is really important) the Dawgs were to reach the SEC title game but lose it. Notre Dame went unbeaten last season, lost the ACC title game and went to the CFP anyway. Alabama didn’t even make the 2017 SEC title game but went to the CFP and won it all (sorry for the bad memory, UGA fans).
So there is precedent.
And Clemson’s loss was part of a bad week for the ACC. There were only 3 ranked ACC teams in the preseason Associated Press poll, and all 3 lost in Week 1. No. 10 North Carolina fell to unranked Virginia Tech and No. 14 Miami was clobbered by No. 1 Alabama. Already, it looks like the ACC will have a tough time getting more than 1 team into the New Year’s Day 6 bowls — and with the Orange Bowl being one of the Playoff semifinals this year, that game has no obligation to take an ACC team, nor does any other NYD6 bowl outside of the champion (which should still be Clemson).
All of this is a long way of saying that the ACC might only get 1 team in the major bowls. Ditto for the Pac-12. So after UNC fell out of our NYD6 projection, there was an void.
Step right up, Florida.
No, we’re not sure the Gators are better than the 4th-best team in the SEC, not just yet. UF has to replace a lot of lost production, and Saturday’s opening 35-14 win against Florida Atlantic, while never in doubt, did not always look crisp.
But, quite simply, UF projects as a 9- or 10-win team, and for now, that’s good enough for a NYD6 bowl bid. The SEC has gotten 4 teams into the NYD6 before and could well do it again. So everyone else in the SEC below the Gators moves up a notch.
A reminder: After the CFP and NYD6 spots are settled, the Citrus takes the next-best SEC team. After that, 6 bowls are considered equal in the SEC’s eyes — the Gator, Outback, Texas, Liberty, Music City and this year the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte — for the next 6 teams. Any bowl-eligible SEC teams after that would be slotted into the Birmingham Bowl, then perhaps the Gasparilla (though that bowl’s conference affiliation agreement is really loose).
Here are the latest SEC projections: