In the long run, it’s irrelevant.
Kirby Smart won’t spend a millisecond worrying about where his team is ranked in any mid-October poll. To be honest, Georgia fans shouldn’t really be concerned, either. If the Bulldogs take care of their own business, their win-loss column will speak for itself when the final College Football Playoff poll is released.
But just for the sake of argument, let’s have a little fun.
Let’s pretend that rankings and résumés do matter in mid-October. Forget preseason rankings. Don’t focus on recent pre-2017 history, either. For this argument, all we have to base anything on is the first seven weeks of college football.
Through seven weeks, I feel confident saying two things. One is that Alabama is the No. 1 team in America. Based on what the Tide have done on a weekly basis, nobody should argue that point.
There’s another point that nobody should argue.
Georgia is clearly the No. 2 team in America until further notice.
Yes, I know that Georgia got off to a surprisingly poor defensive start on Saturday night against Missouri. The fact that the lowly Tigers had more points than any of the Bulldogs’ first six opponents by the start of the second quarter was surprising. Georgia was gashed for big plays and the pass rush wasn’t there. Smart surely wasn’t pleased about that.
But the Bulldogs’ offense played its best game of the season, and the result was never really in doubt. Nobody is about to anoint Georgia for scoring a bunch of points against a woeful Missouri defense. Saturday was the first time the Bulldogs looked somewhat vulnerable against an inferior team, and they still won convincingly.
As we were reminded all weekend, that last part is no guarantee for top-10 teams.
Before the noon games even kicked off, we already saw two top-10 teams fall in stunning fashion. Clemson, which was deemed the only team worthy of competing with Alabama, fell to Syracuse. In football.
A few hours later, the latest edition of #Pac12AfterDark was national treasure Mike Leach watching his team getting whipped by Cal. Even Auburn, which came out guns blazing at LSU, couldn’t keep a 20-0 lead against the unranked Tigers.
Getting to 7-0 isn’t easy. Georgia knows that as well as anyone. On Saturday night, the Bulldogs clinched their first 7-0 start since 2005.
Here’s the list of Power 5 teams that are 7-0 (6-0 Washington plays late on Saturday night):
Clemson will fall from its No. 2 ranking, so Georgia will easily pass the Tigers.
No. 3 Penn State is 6-0, and for the entire season, it’s been ranked ahead of Georgia. Are Saquon Barkley and the Lions impressive? Absolutely. But who have they played? Their big non-conference game was at home against 2-win Pitt.
The conference record of Penn State’s Power 5 opponents is 2-10. Their best win came courtesy of a last-second touchdown pass at Iowa.
You know what Georgia hasn’t needed? A last-second touchdown pass. In fact, the Bulldogs’ only game decided by less than three touchdowns was their win at Notre Dame. That’s the only loss all season for the No. 16 Irish, by the way.
Remember, in this scenario we’re pretending that preseason rankings don’t matter. So while Penn State hasn’t lost yet — a loss is the only way some voters ever move a team down — it certainly hasn’t been nearly as dominant as Georgia through seven weeks.
Even if we pretend that Penn State’s three Big Ten opponents were equally as difficult as Georgia’s four SEC opponents, the numbers still favor the Bulldogs. Georgia is +125 in SEC play while Penn State is +57 vs. the B1G.
That’s what stands out about this Georgia team. It’s Alabama-like dominance week in, week out. The Bulldogs have never struggled at the line of scrimmage, and with the exception of the Notre Dame game, they physically imposed their will on every team they faced.
There are still some people who expect Georgia to do what three other top-10 teams did in Week 7. That is, lose to an unranked opponent. They think that based on the Bulldogs’ history, they’re due for an off week. Maybe they are.
But for now, what about the first seven weeks suggests that Georgia isn’t worthy of being ranked No. 2 in America?
The Bulldogs are closer to No. 1 than they are to No. 3. Anyone suggesting an alternative scenario clearly hasn’t been paying attention. Still, expect poll voters to simply bump Georgia up a peg to No. 3 and move Penn State into that No. 2 spot, even though the Lions had a bye week.
If the Bulldogs are only at No. 3 on Sunday, frustrated Georgia fans will be reminded that it’s irrelevant for now.
But for argument’s sake, there shouldn’t be any doubt about the nation’s No. 2 team.