College Football Playoff: Alabama in at No. 4, Georgia out at No. 6

Georgia will play Florida State in Orange Bowl
Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart and linebacker Raylen Wilson (5) leave the field after the SEC Championship football game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, on Saturday, December 2, 2023. Alabama defeated Georgia 27-24 to end the Bulldogs’ 29-game winning streak. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart and linebacker Raylen Wilson (5) leave the field after the SEC Championship football game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, on Saturday, December 2, 2023. Alabama defeated Georgia 27-24 to end the Bulldogs’ 29-game winning streak. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

ATHENS -- In the end, it was a worst-case scenario for Georgia.

Undefeated and ranked No. 1 pretty much the entire season, the Bulldogs had everything to lose to playing in the SEC Championship. The No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide had everything to win.

And that’s the way it turned out after Alabama exercised its superiority once again over the neighbor SEC program to its East. A day after the Crimson Tide snapped the Bulldogs SEC-record 29-game winning streak with a 27-24 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the College Football Playoff selection committee announced it was sending them to the semifinals, while Georgia would be left on the outside looking in for the first time in three years. Going in as the No. 4 seed, Alabama will face No. 1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. No. 2 Washington will play No. 3 Texas, in the Sugar Bowl semifinal.

With that news, the Bulldogs (12-1) accepted an invitation to the Orange Bowl, where they will face FSU on Dec. 30 in Miami. The Seminoles (13-0), who are without their injured starting quarterback Jordan Travis, fell to No. 5.

“On behalf of our team and especially our seniors we are looking forward to the opportunity to play in the Capital One Orange Bowl,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said in an announcement released by the school Sunday afternoon. “Playing in a city and game with such rich tradition will be a rewarding experience and it represents a great challenge playing a team like undefeated Florida State which has proven to be one of college football’s most accomplished programs. It also presents a great opportunity for our fans who have been so supportive of our team throughout the season at home and on the road. We had the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl a couple of years ago and know firsthand how welcoming the people of South Florida can be.”

The last time Georgia played in the Orange Bowl, it defeated No. 2 Michigan 34-11 on Dec. 31, 2021, in a CFP semifinal and advanced to the championship game. It defeated Alabama 10 days later in Indianapolis to secure the school’s first national championship in 41 years. That win in Miami started an SEC record 29-game winning streak that didn’t end until Saturday’s loss to Alabama in the SEC title game.

The Bulldogs have a rich -- and successful -- history in the Orange Bowl. They’re 3-1, having beaten TCU 40-26 on Jan. 1, 1942 and Missouri 14-0 on Jan. 1, 1960. Texas beat Georgia in Miami on Jan. 1, 1949.

Georgia will encounter a very angry and motivated FSU team. Coach Mike Norvell’s Seminoles were watching the selection show together as a team in Charlotte and their anger was evident as ESPN’s cameras peered in on their watch-party during the live show.

“That was the decision,” CFP selection committee chairman Boo Coorigan said. “Alabama is No. 4 and Florida State is a different team (without injured quarterback Jordan Travis).”

As it turned out, there simply were too many Power 5 unbeatens this year for Georgia to remain in the Top 4. According to the analytics evaluated by the selection committee in making their overnight decision, the Bulldogs’ strength of record (S.O.R) ranked seventh nationally and their strength of schedule (S.O.S.) ranked 37th. Alabama was 4th and 5th, respectively, in those metrics, while the Seminoles were 3rd and 55th, respectively.

In 2021, the undefeated Bulldogs fell to a one-loss Alabama team in the SEC Championship but fell only to No. 3. It helped that there was only one undefeated team that year and that was Cincinnati, which Alabama then beat in the Cotton Bowl. Georgia defeated then-No. 2 Michigan in the Orange Bowl – the first of what would become 29-consecutive victories over three seasons – then avenged the Alabama loss with a 33-18 win in the CFP Championship in Indianapolis.

This year, Michigan (13-0), Washington (13-0) and Florida State (13-0) all entered selection day as undefeated conference champions. With Saturday’s loss, Georgia philosophically dropped behind those three. With its only defeat coming at the hands of the Crimson Tide, it was reasoned that the Bulldogs couldn’t stay ahead of them. Neither, then, should they be in front of Texas (12-1), the only team to beat Bama and a resounding champion of the Big 12.

As for FSU’s exclusion, it’s the first time in the playoff era that an undefeated, conference champion from a Power 5 conference program has been left out of the semifinals. However, it is written in the CFP selection committee’s guidelines that an “impactful player’s availability to play” should be taken into consideration when deciding the semifinalists.

“Florida State was a different team than they were through the first 11 weeks,” Coorigan explained. “Coach (Mike) Norvell, their players, their fans, you know, they had an incredible season. But as you look at who they are as a team right now, without Jordan Travis, without that offensive dynamic that he brings to it, they are a different team and the committee voted Alabama No. 4 and Florida State No. 5.”

Because they also lost their No. 2 quarterback to a concussion, the Seminoles were playing with their third-string quarterback when they defeated Louisville 16-6 in the ACC Championship in Charlotte late Saturday.

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