Why with a close loss to Alabama, Georgia's Playoff odds are actually slim to none
While watching College GameDay on Saturday, Kirk Herbstreit said something about Georgia that gave me pause.
He threw out the idea of the Dawgs getting a long look from the selection committee even with a close loss to Alabama. I’ve since seen that idea discussed on multiple platforms, including on Tuesday night’s Playoff rankings show on ESPN.
“Could 2-loss Georgia still make the Playoff with a close loss to Alabama?”
Let’s move beyond the fact that no 2-loss team has made it into the field, and the only 2-loss teams that were really closely considered (2016 Penn State and 2017 Ohio State) on Selection Sunday had conference championships in hand. Auburn would have been the first, but it lost the SEC Championship Game last year. But at the same time, let’s also not forget that we’ve yet to see a 1-loss Power 5 conference champ miss the field, which bodes well for Oklahoma or Ohio State if they win this weekend.
And there’s another reason it doesn’t seem likely that Georgia holds on to that No. 4 spot with any loss to Alabama. It’s the most important one of all, and it’s been overlooked to a certain extent.
That is, the selection committee would be punishing Alabama by putting Georgia in at No. 4. Basically any scenario that results in a close Georgia loss would theoretically produce a rematch in the Playoff semifinals. It would essentially say, “you know that game that y’all played in Atlanta? Yeah, it didn’t really matter. Let’s do it again and we’ll count it this time.”
That’s why it’s tough to envision any scenario — outside of Clemson losing to Pitt as a 28-point favorite — in which a Georgia loss earns a Playoff berth.
I know what you’re probably thinking.
“So who gets that spot then if Ohio State and Oklahoma also lose? And why?”
As far-fetched as it would be, I actually think it’s UCF. Before you tell me that the Knights didn’t play anyone and that McKenzie Milton’s injury should end their Playoff chances, let me just say that I agree with most of that. UCF will not have as good of a résumé as a 2-loss Georgia team, no matter how many points it beats Memphis by. And while I always come back to the selection committee valuing the résumé above all else, there’s something else to consider here.
This is about setting up matchups. Setting up a third Alabama-Georgia in less than 365 days wouldn’t exactly move the needle. The discussion of Alabama-UCF — even without Milton — would be all the intrigue and variety the selection committee could ever want.
Besides, if there was ever a year for an unbeaten Group of 5 team to get in, that scenario would be it. You’d have 3 Power 5 champs with at least 3 losses and without a 1-loss team on the outside looking in of a conference title game. At that point, I feel like the selection committee would just say, “you know what? Let’s just put UCF in so we can settle this once and for all.”
I guarantee it would get the most ratings of any Playoff semifinal game so far, and maybe it would even rate better than the Alabama-Clemson title game matchups. It would inject some nationwide intrigue in a way that another Georgia-Alabama matchup just couldn’t.
Is that entirely fair to Georgia? Based on résumé, no, but I’d argue that no team that loses multiple games and fails to win a conference title should feel entitled to a Playoff spot.
And even less fair would be making Alabama run it back against Georgia 4 weeks later.
We’ve yet to see the selection committee draw up a single semifinal game that was a rematch from the regular season. Sure, the odds are slim just because of how exclusive those Playoff spots are and how there’s usually a pretty strong feeling who’s going to be seeded where. Still, I think that’s something they’ll try to avoid at all costs.
They’ll avoid that scenario if Georgia wins, too. They would simply move Clemson to No. 1, put Georgia matched up against Notre Dame in the 2-3 matchup (seeds there don’t really matter) and then Alabama would be at No. 4. Go figure that would actually create a pair of 2017 rematches. That’s different from making teams face off who just played each other in a conference title game.
So consider this a reminder that all of those cliché phrases that Kirby Smart and other coaches throw out to avoid talking about the postseason are true.
“We’ve gotta take it one game at a time.”
“We’ve gotta control the things that we can control.”
That’s right, Kirby. All Georgia’s gotta do is beat one of the most dominant teams we’ve seen this century and the Playoff ticket is punched.
Simple enough, right?