College Football Playoff, bowl predictions: Paths the eight remaining contenders must follow in 2021

A Big Eight remain. That is, there are eight teams with one or no losses that have a realistic shot at advancing to the College Football Playoff entering the penultimate week of the 2021 season.

Unlike most years, at least there’s some variety among those teams with Cincinnati, Michigan and Oklahoma State having never been to the College Football Playoff. The remaining five have filled 17 of the previous 28 slots available.

Cincinnati would be the only true party crasher. No Group of Five school has ever been represented in the final four. Based on Tuesday’s latest CFP Rankings, a berth is so close for the Bearcats they can almost start selling tickets.

As with everything in college football, nothing is absolute. Disaster scenarios are possible (more on that below). For now, let’s breakdown those eight top contenders.

No. 1 Georgia (11-0): The closest thing to a lock in this process. The Bulldogs (-35) merely need to beat Georgia Tech to all but clinch a spot. Georgia is already in the SEC Championship Game having won the SEC East. It’s hard to imagine a scenario whereby Georgia beats the Yellow Jackets, loses to Alabama — even in a blowout — and drops out of the the top four. As the only remaining Power Five undefeated with an average victory margin of 33 in the nation’s toughest conference, the Dawgs have earned that right. Unless the Yellow Jackets have raided the transfer portal this week, it’s a done deal.

No. 2 Ohio State (10-1): It’s simple, but it’s not easy: beat Michigan and win the Big Ten Championship Game. As good as the Buckeyes have looked, they have a treacherous road to the playoff. Win those games, and they’re in. No arguments. The last time this road opened up for Ohio State was 2019. That year, the season ended…

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