Georgia football: Why the Bulldogs should be ranked No. 5 over Penn State
When the College Football Playoff’s initial rankings are unveiled Tuesday, every person in America will be completely in agreement with how the 13-member committee slots all 25 teams. Don’t worry about a debate; there’ll be none at all.
If you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Athens I’d like to sell you.
Every year, someone’s going to feel cheated by the Playoff committee. It’s a fall tradition. And when the rankings are released between 9 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night, social media and online comment sections will be filled with back-and-forth arguments about how some team is overrated or how another team got snubbed.
But here’s a little talking point for you: Georgia, previously ranked No. 8 in the AP poll, jumped to No. 6 thanks to its win over Florida on Saturday. They’re a slot behind Penn State, which was idle this past weekend. Meanwhile, the Gators fell from No. 6 to No. 10.
Was putting Georgia at No. 6 and Penn State at No. 5 the right call, though? There might be a case for the Dawgs sitting in the top 5 over the unbeaten Nittany Lions.
A quick look at a few teams that Penn State has beaten doesn’t exactly represent a who’s who of college football programs. They were supposed to blow the doors off FCS re-entrant Idaho. Maryland football under Mike Locksley is … well … not very good. Buffalo gave them some heartburn as the Bulls took a 10-7 lead into halftime, but the Nittany Lions turned on the jets in the 2nd half. Let’s not forget, though, that this is the same Penn State team that struggled to beat Pitt and was neck-in-neck with then-No. 17 Iowa, while also giving then-No. 16 Michigan a chance to win after opening up a 21-0 lead before holding on.
Probably the most glaring stat, though, for Penn State is that it’s not beaten any Top 10 teams. The games against Michigan and Iowa are its only victories over ranked opponents. And that’s a big reason Georgia might belong at No. 5 ahead of the Nittany Lions.
Yes, the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina, which could still be in danger of missing a bowl. And its schedule is dotted with teams it should have beaten and did (looking at you, Vanderbilt, Arkansas State and Murray State.) But when it comes down to it, they’ve taken care of business when it’s mattered.
Take Saturday’s win over No. 8 Florida, when the Dawgs defense stifled the Gators’ running attack while neutralizing their pass rush and riding a monster day from Lawrence Cager. Couple that with a Sep. 21 victory over then-No. 7 Notre Dame and you might have an argument for Georgia leapfrogging Penn State in the standings.
That’s 2 wins over top 10 teams. Only LSU has more.
Would a more convincing win over the Gators have led to a top 5 spot in the media poll and CFP rankings for the Bulldogs? Maybe. Interestingly enough, though, one of the SEC’s top advocates doesn’t even have the Dawgs in his top 6.
My latest CFP rankings after Week 10:
1. Ohio State
5. Penn State
And what’s yours?
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) November 3, 2019
At the end of the day, the biggest problem with the rankings is the human element: The “eye test” is personal. But it might be better than having a computer decide who’s ranked where and who will play for a national championship.
All that aside, though, the Dawgs can only control what they can control, and that’s their play on the field. They certainly didn’t help their case with that loss to the Gamecocks on Oct. 12. And they still don’t have much room for error with 4 games to go: They know that one loss down the stretch regardless of who it comes against will mean the end of their Playoff hopes.
Whether you think Georgia should be ranked No. 5 or not, it needs to ride the wave of momentum from Saturday and continue to play the best style of football it can. And that’s a point that’s not up for debate.