ESPN lays out path to College Football Playoff for Georgia in 2019

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Georgia football path to the College Football Playoff in 2019

Georgia football just missed out on the College Football Playoff in 2018, as the Bulldogs came in at No. 5 in the final College Football Playoff rankings. But the Bulldogs return a number of key contributors in 2019 and bring in the nation’s No. 2 overall recruiting class.

Because of that, many have pegged Georgia to be one of the nation’s elite teams in 2019. The S&P+ has Georgia at No. 2, while ESPN’s ‘Way-too-early’ Top 25 has Georgia at No. 4. ESPN’s preseason FPI for 2019, which debuted on Thursday, has the Bulldogs at No. 3.

As a companion to the reveal of the FPI rankings, ESPN’s Heather Dinich laid out the potential path for Georgia to make it back to the College Football Playoff in this coming season.

Based off Georgia’s 2019 schedule, Dinich believes that the playoff committee will like that Georgia’s top SEC West opponents are Texas A&M and Auburn, who were ranked No. 11 and No. 9 in the FPI respectively. Dinich also stressed the importance of the Bulldogs getting off to a strong start, given Georgia’s first three 2019 opponents are Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State.

As for the biggest question facing Georgia football in this coming season, it has a lot to do with how Notre Dame looks in 2019. The Bulldogs and Fighting Irish play in Sanford Stadium on Sept. 21 in what will be Georgia’s fourth game of the season. Should the Bulldogs win that, they’ll be in great shape for another College Football Playoff run.

“It depends, of course, on how the Irish fare. According to ESPN’s FPI, it’s the most difficult game on the Irish schedule, as they are No. 7 and projected to be No. 9 in offensive efficiency and No. 11 in defensive efficiency,” Dinich wrote. “Notre Dame helped Michigan almost all last season — and the Wolverines didn’t even win the game. Remember Miami’s claim to fame in 2017? The Hurricanes hammered Notre Dame 41-8, and it carried them in the eyes of the committee — until the Canes ended the season with two face-plants of their own. Win or lose, playing Notre Dame seems to help — as long as the Irish help themselves.”

Notre Dame made the College Football Playoff in 2018, but the Fighting Irish were smothered by Clemson in a 30-3 defeat. When Georgia and Notre Dame met in 2017, the Bulldogs came away with a 20-19 victory over Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame game was quarterback Jake Fromm’s first career start, as he was filling in for the injured Jacob Eason. Fromm has improved significantly since then, as he threw for 30 touchdowns compared to just 6 interceptions during the 2018 season. Georgia also returns running back D’Andre Swift, who rushed for 1,049 yards last season. Most of those yards came during the second half of the season, when the dynamic sophomore finally got healthy.

The Bulldogs do have to replace some key contributors on defense, but Georgia should have an improved pass rush in 2019 as it brought in the nation’s No. 1 recruit in defensive end Nolan Smith. Smart and Georgia landed five 5-star players in the 2019 class, the most by any school in the country.

Georgia’s 2019 season begins on Aug. 31, when the Bulldogs visit Vanderbilt.

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