Orange Bowl likely landing spot should UGA lose in SEC Championship game

Georgia's postseason scenario has been pretty easy to figure out ever since the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina on Oct. 12. Just win every game and they're in the College Football Playoff.

It’s a little murky should they lose.

That’s not likely to happen Saturday as No. 4 Georgia (10-1, 7-1 SEC) enters the season finale as a four-touchdown favorite over Georgia Tech (3-8, 2-6 ACC). But the Bulldogs won’t be favored when they face LSU Dec. 7 in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

Preliminary betting lines have the No. 1-ranked Tigers (11-0, 7-0 SEC) as 3.5-point favorites over Georgia. But first LSU has to get by the same Texas A&M team the Bulldogs just dispatched 19-13 this weekend in Athens.

If everybody does what’s expected of them and an undefeated LSU team beats one-loss Georgia in the SEC title game and Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl this weekend, then the odds favor the Bulldogs landing in the Orange Bowl.

In that scenario, the No. 5-ranked Crimson Tide, would be ranked ahead of a two-loss Georgia team, which presumably would remain in the top 10. Assuming Alabama doesn’t move into the fourth spot for the playoffs, that would put the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, which matches the highest-ranked, non-CFP SEC team with a Big 12 opponent.

Meanwhile, the Orange Bowl matches the highest-ranked team from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame against the best ACC team not in the playoff. Gary Stokan, president and CEO of Peach Bowl Inc., believes the Bulldogs would be in that mix.

“Georgia, if they lose to LSU, won’t fall that far, I wouldn’t think,” Stokan said Tuesday. “So, I would think the Orange Bowl would take Georgia.”

The Bulldogs haven’t played in the Orange Bowl since 1960 when Fran Tarkenton led them to a 14-0 win over Missouri.

Who the Bulldogs would meet there in 2019 also is an interesting prospect. More than likely it would be the winner of this Saturday’s Virginia-Virginia Tech game. Whichever team prevails in that contest will face Clemson as a decided underdog in the ACC Championship. The Orange Bowl likely would take the loser, though Wake Forest (8-3) or Pitt (7-4) might also be options.

That means there is a scenario in which the Bulldogs could face Virginia in the Orange Bowl, then open the 2020 season against the Cavaliers in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.

Stokan and his group have thought about that.

“You’d prefer it not to happen but, at the end of the day, it’s two different teams and a nine months will have passed since they played,” Stokan said. “It wouldn’t matter to us. With what we’ve sold to Georgia and Virginia already (in tickets) and what we’ll sell to our renewal people, we’ll sell the game out easy.”

Of course, if Alabama moves into the top four following a Georgia loss, then the Sugar Bowl would have to take the Bulldogs. Georgia played Texas in the Sugar Bowl last season, losing 28-21.

Of course, all of this is dependent upon teams what they’re expected to do. That is rarely ever the case in college football. Nobody expected Oregon to lose to Arizona State last weekend, and surely there is an upset or two out there between the regular-season finales and conference championship games.

“Something always happens; it’s college football,” Stokan said with a laugh. “But that’s what’s great about it. We have the playoff going on right in front of us, Penn State-Ohio State (last week), you’re going to have Utah against Oregon, Auburn against Alabama. They’re all playoff games. I don’t think we need an expanded playoff, but who knows?”

No matter what, Peach Bowl Inc., which manages the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, is sitting pretty. This year they host one of the two CFP semifinals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 28. Should the Bulldogs somehow get by LSU, that could be a Georgia-Clemson matchup. If LSU wins, then it’s probably the Tigers against Alabama, Oklahoma or Utah.

“Obviously, we can’t lose,” Stokan said.

The real question then would be what would happen at the No. 4 spot.

“The eye test says Alabama is probably better than Oklahoma or Utah, but that’s going to be up to the selection committee to figure out, and that’s going to be interesting,” Stokan said.