Georgia defensive backs Divaad Wilson (left) and Tyrique Stevenson signal the fourth quarter as fans light up Sanford Stadium during a 27-0 shutout over Missouri on Saturday, November 9, 2019, in Athens.
Georgia, which carries a loss to 4-6 South Carolina, remained the highest-ranked one-loss team in the College Football Playoff committee's second set of rankings. What made this batch different from the first is that Alabama is now among the teams with one loss, and Bama's was to now-top-ranked LSU. This tells us two things, both of which we sort of saw coming:
No. 1: Georgia has, in the collective mind of the committee, done enough good things (beat Notre Dame, beat Florida) to override the worst loss among legitimate contenders.
No. 2: Alabama is in dire straits, playoff-wise.
The Crimson Tide won’t win the SEC West – LSU would have to lose twice, which isn’t happening – and therefore can’t win the SEC. Its last chance at a significant victory will come Nov. 30 against Auburn. But Auburn, which already has lost twice, could lose to Georgia on Saturday. When your best win is over a team that finishes 8-4, do you really belong in the playoff?
If the Bulldogs indeed prevail at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Bama would be reduced to pulling hard for LSU to win out. Anything else would leave the Tide, for the first time since the playoff began in 2014, in a bowl that doesn’t matter.
If Georgia beats LSU for the SEC title, the Bulldogs will make the playoff. The Tigers still would, too. They have victories over Texas, Florida, Auburn and Alabama, all ranked in the committee’s top 19. Bama has beaten no ranked team. All it can do is finish 11-1 and hope LSU is the SEC champ. Then the Tide would have a chance.
This assumes Clemson doesn’t lose, which it won’t. This also assumes the Big Ten champ will make the playoff – so long as it’s no worse than a one-loss Big Ten champ. Ohio State and Minnesota are unbeaten. Penn State has one loss. Should any of those wind up with one or no losses come midnight Dec. 7, that team will finish ahead of Alabama.
Penn State, which dropped to No. 9 this week, can still win the Big Ten East by beating Ohio State on Nov. 23. Minnesota is No. 8, but it could have three more chances – against Iowa and Wisconsin in the regular-season and then in the conference title game – to score victories over ranked opponents. Provided Ohio State beats Penn State and then wins the conference championship, the Buckeyes should make the field of four even with a stumble against Michigan.
For Alabama, LSU was as close to an elimination game as the regular season offers. In 2017, Bama lost to Auburn and didn’t play for the conference title, but it made the field because it beat LSU and Mississippi State, both of which finished in the CFP’s Top 25. For the Tide to make it this time, the committee would essentially have to say, “You played a two-game season, and we’re going to reward you for going 1-1.”
One possible bailout: Texas A&M could beat Georgia and/or LSU. As it stands, the unranked Aggies represent Bama’s best win. Even with that, the chance of a one-loss Alabama making it ahead of a two-loss SEC champ seem slim. If LSU wins the conference title, Bama will have a shot. (Although a one-loss Pac-12 champ would complicate matters.) If Georgia beats LSU, the Tide will be out. Unless …
The committee decides to take three SEC teams, in which case the committee should just come out and say, “Look, we’re all scared to death of Nick Saban. Aren’t you?”