College football predictions for 2021 bowl games, Playoff semifinals, national championship

By | June 21, 2021

Bowl Season returns in 2021-22 with a schedule that includes 43 bowl games between FBS teams.

While College Football Playoff expansion might be in the works, this year marks the eighth season of the four-team playoff. This year’s College Football Playoff championship game is Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The year’s semifinals are Dec. 31 at the Capital One Orange Bowl and Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Sporting News’ Playoff picks are more of the same. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma have combined for 20 of the 28 total playoff appearances. Yet those four schools have yet to all make the Playoff in the same season. 

SN has projections for all 43 bowl games here, and they will be updated throughout the season:

College football bowl predictions 2021

Dec. 17 Bahamas Bowl Ball State vs. FAU
Dec. 17 Cure Bowl Arkansas State vs. Tulsa
Dec. 18 Boca Raton Bowl UCF vs. Liberty*
Dec. 18 New Mexico Bowl Nevada vs. Marshall
Dec. 18 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl BYU vs. UTSA
Dec. 18 Lendingtree Bowl Toledo vs. Appalachian State
Dec. 18 Los Angeles Bowl Boise State vs. UCLA
Dec. 18 R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl South Alabama vs. Louisiana Tech
Dec. 20 Myrtle Beach Bowl Georgia State vs. Memphis
Dec. 21 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Buffalo vs. Colorado State
Dec. 21 Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl Miami, Ohio vs. UAB
Dec. 21 Armed Forces Bowl Army* vs. Western Kentucky
Dec. 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl San Diego State vs. FIU
Dec. 24 Hawai’i Bowl San Jose State vs. SMU
Dec. 25 Camellia Bowl Kent State vs. Louisiana
Dec. 27 Quick Lane Bowl Tulane vs. Michigan State
Dec. 27 Military Bowl Navy vs. Wake Forest
Dec. 28 TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl Houston vs. Tennessee
Dec. 28 First Responder Bowl Baylor vs. Virginia
Dec. 28 AutoZone Liberty Bowl TCU vs. Auburn
Dec. 28 Guaranteed Rate Bowl Maryland vs. Kansas State
Dec. 29 Fenway Bowl Cincinnati vs. Pitt
Dec. 29 Pinstripe Bowl Northwestern vs. Louisville
Dec. 29 Cheez-It Bowl West Virginia vs. Florida State
Dec. 29 Valero Alamo Bowl Oregon vs. Oklahoma State
Dec. 30 Duke’s Mayo Bowl Indiana vs. N.C. State
Dec. 30 Transperfect Music City Bowl Nebraska vs. Kentucky
Dec. 30 SRS Las Vegas Bowl Cal vs. Iowa
Dec. 31 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Missouri vs. Virginia Tech
Dec. 31 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl Utah vs. Boston College
Jan. 1 Outback Bowl Michigan vs. LSU
Jan. 1 Vrbo Citrus Bowl Penn State vs. Florida
Jan. 4 Texas Bowl Texas vs. Ole Miss
TBD Holiday Bowl Arizona State vs. Miami
TBD RedBox Bowl Washington vs. Minnesota
TBD Arizona Bowl Ohio vs. Wyoming

*Denotes not tied to bowl game

College Football New Year’s Six predictions

Dec. 30 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Notre Dame vs. Texas A&M
Jan. 1 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Coastal Carolina vs. North Carolina
Jan. 1 Rose Bowl Game USC vs. Wisconsin
Jan. 1 Allstate Sugar Bowl Iowa State vs. Georgia
Dec. 31 Capital One Orange Bowl (semifinal) Ohio State vs. Alabama
Dec. 31 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (semifinal) Oklahoma vs. Clemson

College Football Playoff championship prediction

Jan. 10 College Football Playoff championship Alabama vs. Clemson

New Year’s Day Six picks

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Texas A&M

The Aggies and Irish get to settle last year’s playoff a year too late on a smaller stage. Both teams have quarterback battles worth watching in fall camp, but we’d more interested in the running backs in this one. Isaiah Spiller and Kyren Williams are both dark-horse Heisman candidates. This will be a fun table-setter for the rest of the New Year’s Day Six.

PlayStation First Bowl: Coastal Carolina vs. North Carolina

The Chanticleers are our Group of 5 selection, and some of that is based on Cincinnati’s tough nonconference schedule against Indiana and Notre Dame. The Sun Belt gets their due, and Grayson McCall gets matched up across North Carolina’s Sam Howell, who leads the Tar Heels to their second straight NY6 bowl appearance under Mack Brown. 

Rose Bowl Game: USC vs. Wisconsin

USC and Wisconsin met in the Rose Bowl in 1953 and 1963, and this matches up the Pac-12 champion against the Big Ten runner-up. Kedon Slovis and Graham Mertz make it an intriguing matchup, but with these teams is comes down to who can the ball. It will be nice to have the Tournament of Roses Parade back, too. 

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Iowa State vs. Georgia

The Bulldogs are forced to settle for a fourth straight New Year’s Day Six Bowl appearance unless JT Daniels can lead a Playoff run. Will that turn up any pressure on Kirby Smart? The Cyclones, meanwhile, are in an all-in year given the number of players who returned from last year’s Fiesta Bowl winner. Given the hype around both teams, this would feel a bit like a consolation game.

College Football Playoff picks 

Capital One Orange Bowl: Ohio State vs. Alabama

Didn’t we just watch this game? Both programs sent 10 players to the 2021 NFL Draft, but there is more than enough talent on both sides for a third CFP playoff matchup. The Buckeyes are loaded at receiver, and Alabama should be better on defense. What will Ryan Day do differently after last year’s CFP championship game loss?

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Oklahoma vs. Clemson

This would be the more entertaining matchup given it features two of the top three quarterbacks in SN’s Top 25 QB rankings. Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei and Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler would put on an offensive show in this one. Which program faces more pressure? The Sooners are 0-4 in CFP semifinals, and the Tigers have been routed in their last two appearances.

CFP championship pick 

CFP championship game: Alabama vs. Clemson 

More of the same. Until the CFP expands to 12 teams, this matchup will continue to pop up given the talent level assembled on both sides. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have split four playoff matchups the last seven years, and this time both schools travel north to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. We had Ohio State vs. Clemson in last year’s championship game