Bowl Predictions 2021: Week 1

It’s that time again, folks. The first set of projections are here.

Here’s how this works. Each weekend from now until the end of the season, I project out every potential bowl eligible team. In the past, I had pretty much eyeballed this, but these days I now use SP+ to project each team’s final record.

I then attempt to determine the College Football Playoff controlled games based on their rules and precedents. Remember, my projections are attempting to extrapolate out from now through the last weekend of the season.

For non-CFP games, I attempt to apply each conference’s selection criteria to the bowls they are partnered with. Unfortunately, this is when the science starts to get very, very inexact. With the latest bowl deals that nominally took effect for the 2020 season, almost every conference has abandoned any sort of performance-based criteria for how their bowls are seeded. In addition, some conferences, especially in the Group-of-Five, have ceded almost all control of where their teams are placed to ESPN events, which owns about half of the bowl games.

This makes the call of which teams go where nearly impossible to predict anymore. Nonetheless, I will give it a shot and see if I can learn anything this year that I can apply to future seasons. I didn’t really do bowl predictions last year because half of the games were canceled and many teams opted-out.

An additional wrinkle for this week is that I am short five teams for all available slots. I will work in future weeks to determine what remedies may be available if this actually happens, but in the meantime any game that is lacking a team should have a “???” in at least one of its slots.