After a rigorous 2021 season, it’s time for the college football playoffs to begin. Alabama is now number one and will face Cincinnati in the first semi-final playoff game while Michigan at number two will face number three Georgia in the other semi-final. The Southeastern Conference has six teams ranked in the top-25: top ranked Alabama, number three Georgia, number eight Ole Miss, 21st ranked Arkansas, 22nd ranked Kentucky and number 25 Texas A&M. The SEC has the most teams in these final rankings than any other conference. The Big Ten and ACC each had four, Big 12 posted three and both Pac-12 and AAC had two each. Additionally, there were two independent teams ranked as well as an Mountain West and Sun Belt team. That Sun Belt team is Louisiana, coached by now Florida coach Billy Napier.
On December 31, Alabama will participate in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic against the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Crimson Tide hit the top spot after defeating conference rival Georgia Saturday 41-24, claiming the 2021 SEC Championship title. Georgia’s first loss of the season left the team dropping to the number three spot. However, the Bulldogs will get a chance for redemption as they prepare for the Capital One Orange Bowl against the number two ranked Michigan Wolverines.
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, the chairman of the College Football Selection Committee, said Georgia had been ranked number one by the committee all along, but the way Alabama controlled the game over the Bulldogs from start to finish it altered that ranking.
Ole Miss will kickoff the new year in the Allstate Sugar Bowl versus number seven Baylor in New Orleans. The Rebels finished their season 10-2 overall, with losses to Auburn and Alabama.
Arkansas finished third in the SEC West with a 8-4 overall record, the most regular season wins for the program since 2011. The Razorbacks will head to Tampa for the Outback Bowl January 1 against Penn State, it is Arkansas’s first bowl game since 2007.
The Vrbo Citrus Bowl this year will feature Kentucky and number 15 Iowa. This match up is more than just a bowl game for Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops. Both he and two of his brothers played at Iowa in college, and Stoops said in a Zoom conference Sunday that his father, Ron, was buried with his Hawkeyes jersey. He added that the match up will be different from any other opponent the team has faced.
Finally, Texas A&M will head to Jacksonville December 31 for the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl against number 17 Wake Forest. The Aggies finished with an 8-4 overall record and 4-4 in SEC match ups.
Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Auburn are the other SEC teams that will be heading to a bowl game.