The first step in the College Football Playoff upheaval took place Saturday night, and it wasn’t the least bit unexpected. No. 3 LSU was the first dance partner to take a chair, losing 29-0 to No. 1 Alabama, opening a spot in Tuesday night’s latest edition of the Final Four.
There is a very deserving team ready to slide into that fourth spot. But it’s Michigan — and not Georgia.
With a huge emphasis on for now.
The three undefeated teams who will be at the top — Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame — are all deserving. The debate among some one-loss teams like Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Ohio State will linger on, but for now, it’s obvious.
The Playoff selection committee looks at a lot of data, but it really comes down to two things: Who did you beat, and who beat you. There’s a huge disparity there between Michigan and Georgia and the others, in my opinion, but there’s also an ever-so-slight difference between the Wolverines and Bulldogs.
First, let’s look at the losses.
Michigan’s only loss was in Week 1, to undefeated Notre Dame on the road where the difference between winning and losing actually came down to Notre Dame’s first two drives in the first quarter. The Irish scored twice to take a 14-0 lead, but Michigan outplayed them the rest of the way, only to come up short 24-17. It is, by far, the best loss of the one-loss teams.
Georgia’s loss, as we know, was to LSU and, as we also know, it was a true beat-down. Georgia lost by 20 to a team that now has 2 losses. There is no shame in losing to No. 1 Alabama, of course, but now LSU’s second loss is starting to look pretty bad. LSU lost at Florida, and just when you want to say that it’s really hard to win in the The Swamp, look at what Missouri did Saturday. They beat the Gators 38-17 in Gainesville for their first SEC win of the season. That’s a bad look.
Advantage, Michigan. By far.
Let’s look at the wins. Georgia’s best win so far was against the same Florida team that we just determined was a fraud. You might say that Saturday’s win over Kentucky was great, but let’s remember that UK’s best win is against a 3-loss Mississippi State team. There’s really nothing impressive on Georgia’s resume.
Michigan has beaten a Wisconsin team that was once ranked No. 4 in the country and a Penn State team was as high as No. 9. Granted, both of those teams now have 3 losses, too, and Wisconsin isn’t even ranked anymore, but the combined score of those two Michigan wins, both blowouts? Try 80-20.
Again, advantage Michigan. And again, by far.
But here’s the biggest thing to remember here in this first week of November. Being in the Top 4 this week doesn’t mean diddly squat. And if you want to compare Georgia and Michigan, there’s this all-important issue:
Georgia really does control its own Playoff destiny — and Michigan, amazingly, doesn’t. And that’s because of Georgia.
If Georgia wins out and then beats No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, it’s in the Playoff without question. That’s a 100-percent guaranteed lock. If the Bulldogs lose to Alabama, there’s no way a 2-loss Georgia team makes the Playoff unless there’s totally chaos with Notre Dame and/or Clemson this month.
So Georgia’s fate is in its own hands, plain and simple.
Michigan, for as great as it is playing, can’t say that. Even if the Wolverines win out — which means beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten title game — Georgia beating Alabama in the SEC title game could cause a huge problem for the Wolverines.
Say Georgia wins and is in. Say Clemson and Notre Dame finish the season unbeaten. They’d be in for sure, too. So if the selection committee is evaluating Alabama and Michigan for that final spot, don’t you think they’d lean toward Alabama, which clearly has been the best team in the country all season? Michigan could be on a 12-game winning streak and looking awesome, and it might still be out.
For Georgia, it still comes down to winning out. If the Dawgs had beaten LSU, they probably could have still snuck in the back door of the Playoff with a close loss to Alabama, But that’s not the case now.
Win, and you’re in. Georgia can say that, and Michigan can’t.
So give Michigan the edge for this week, but there’s still a long way to go to get to the finish line. It’s Michigan — for now.
Emphasis added on the for now.