Georgia vs. Alabama: ‘We know a lot about them, they know a lot about us,’ Smart said
Georgia was slotted at No. 4 Tuesday night as the College Football Playoff committee revealed its weekly rankings.
After working its way up from No. 6 after a road loss to LSU on Oct. 13, the Bulldogs are in the playoff field if the season ended today. That’s not the case, however, as Saturday’s conference championships remain until those rankings are finalized. Georgia’s test lies with No. 1 Alabama ahead in the third championship game between the teams since 2012. (4 p.m., CBS).
The thought by many is that Alabama is in the playoff, whether if it beats Georgia or not — which is probably true as they’re one-of-two remaining undefeateds among Power 5 programs. Clemson, at 12-0 and a looming bout with Pittsburgh (7-5) in the ACC title game, is the other.
For Georgia, a loss means tickets can be booked for the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans (which will be a worst-case scenario if Georgia misses the playoff), right? Maybe not.
“They’re an outstanding team that’ll be a tremendous challenge to us,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “It’s going to be important for us to play as well as we have all year long, for 60 minutes and in every minute. That’s where our focus is.”
Georgia can still make the College Football Playoff with a second defeat. It would make history as the first two-loss playoff team in its history and the second-consecutive season of two SEC programs in the field.
Here’s what plays to the Bulldogs’ advantage:
Georgia is 3-1 against the Top 25 after Missouri entered the rankings for the first time Tuesday. Alabama is the only team with more (4) and none of the other contenders (those in the Top 6) have more than two.
Georgia’s strength of schedule ranks 25th. The second-highest SOS in the Top 4, Notre Dame, ranks at 36th. Oklahoma, a team vying for the final spot with Georgia, is at 34.
The committee has shown favor to the SEC. There are now eight teams (more than half of the 14-team league) and four in the Top 10 (No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia, No. 9 Florida and No. 10 LSU).
No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State are also in conference championships against ranked teams, although favored. Ohio State is slated to face No. 21 Northwestern while Oklahoma seeks revenge against No. 14 Texas. Oklahoma lost to Texas, 48-45, in the regular-season rivalry.
While Georgia has a 20-point loss to LSU on its record, Ohio State has an ugly one of its own. The Buckeyes lost to unranked Purdue 49-20 in the regular season. Last season, a similar loss to Iowa left Ohio State out of the playoff in favor of an Alabama team that didn’t make a conference championship game.
Michigan, UCF and the two three-loss teams to round out the Top 10 play a slim factor (if any) to Georgia’s playoff chances.
Are the chances in Georgia’s favor if it loses to Alabama? No, the Bulldogs’ best scenario would be to beat the Crimson Tide, prove their place as 13.5-point underdogs and ensure another chance toward a National Championship.
For a serious conversation to occur, Georgia would likely need Ohio State and Oklahoma to lose their respective conference championships and form a group of two-loss teams.
Beforehand, allow some lobbying to occur.
“I still think there’s an argument that Georgia is one of the best four teams, even with two losses when I go back to the unique rigor of our schedule,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in Friday’s press conference at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “The committee has indicated deep respect for the competition in this conference, and (Georgia) still merits consideration.”
But based on the odd landscape of this season’s rankings, Georgia does have a chance as each of the other contenders -- aside from Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame -- have resume flaws while the Bulldogs possess some strengths to counter.
And yes, that could even mean consecutive games with Alabama, which would be one of football’s most-unique scenarios.
Time will tell, however, as the championships unfold Saturday and New Year’s Six bowl matchups are revealed Sunday (noon, ESPN).