Georgia Bulldogs stay No. 1, path to playoff remains set

ATHENS -- Georgia stayed No. 1 and Alabama remained No. 6, and those were the two most important developments as the fifth College Football Playoff rankings were revealed Tuesday night on ESPN.

There was some question as to whether the Bulldogs (12-0 overall, 8-0 SEC) would remain No. 1, as they have been for the last three weeks, after Michigan (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) beat No. 2-ranked Ohio State (11-1, 8-1) in Columbus this past weekend. Meanwhile, Georgia took care of business with a 37-14 win over Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale at Sanford Stadium.

ExploreThe AJC's complete coverage on the Bulldogs

Boo Corrigan, chairman of the CFP selection committee, said all of that was taken under consideration by the 13-member group.

“A lot of conversation specifically about that, Georgia and Michigan and Michigan’s big win on Saturday,” Corrigan said. “But Georgia did nothing against Georgia Tech for people to look at that game that it was a watershed moment, if you will. Georgia over the entire season -- the win over Oregon, over Tennessee, the wins over South Carolina and Mississippi State, gives them four wins over teams ranked in the Top 25. Michigan has two great wins. But, you know, four wins over the Top 25 versus two wins, taking in the whole body of work, we ended up with Georgia No. 1 and Michigan No. 2.”

TCU, the only other 12-0 team, moved up to No. 3 after its 62-14 win over Iowa State, and Southern Cal moved up to No. 4 after defeating Notre Dame.

Of course, conference championship games could reset the entire top four. Georgia plays No. 14 LSU (9-3) in the SEC Championship on Saturday, Michigan faces unranked Purdue in the Big Ten Title game and TCU plays Kansas State in the Big 12 game. USC faces No. 12 Utah (9-3) in the Pac-12 title game. Any losses among that set could reconfigure the final rankings, which will come out next Sunday at noon.

Ohio State (11-1) stands as the team most likely to move into the top 4 should any of the other teams slip up. The Buckeyes fell from second to fifth and remained ahead of No. 6 Alabama (10-2) should an opening emerge.

Tennessee, which has lost starting quarterback Hendon Hooker to a season-ending knee injury, remains at No. 7, behind Alabama and out of the New Year’s Six consideration, even though the Vols beat Alabama head-to-head.

“It was very much debated amongst the committee, and there was a lot of conversation around that,” Corigan said. “The value of head-to-head is certainly one of the criteria, but we’re looking at a full body of work. When you look at the two losses by Alabama, including one by a last-second field goal to Tennessee, you have to measure in there the loss that Tennessee had to South Carolina. As we went through that, that was part of the determination for having Alabama ahead of Tennessee.”

Meanwhile, LSU was severely penalized for its road loss to Texas A&M this past weekend. The Tigers dropped nine spots to No. 14.

So for Georgia, the blueprint is clear: Beat LSU on Saturday in the SEC Championship game and hold onto the No. 1 spot for the playoff.