Georgia remains No. 1 in College Football Playoff rankings

Georgia running back Kendall Milton (2) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, Saturday, November 25, 2023, in Atlanta. Georgia won 31-23 over Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia running back Kendall Milton (2) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, Saturday, November 25, 2023, in Atlanta. Georgia won 31-23 over Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

ATHENS -- Georgia is still No. 1. But things are getting very interesting behind the Bulldogs.

Four days before putting their undefeated record (12-0) and record 29-game winning streak on the line against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, the Bulldogs remained atop the penultimate College Football Playoff ranking, which was released Tuesday night.

There was some question whether the Bulldogs would remain there a third consecutive week after struggling for a one-score win against a 6-6 Georgia Tech team and then-No. 3 Michigan (12-0) knocked off No. 2 Ohio State. Instead, the 13-person selection selection committee moved the Wolverines into the No. 2 spot and dropped the Buckeyes (11-1) all the way to No. 6.

Washington (12-0) and Florida State (12-0) each moved up a spot to No. 3 and 4, respectively. Oregon (11-1) remained at No. 5, earning the distinction as the top ranked one-loss team. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide (11-1) remained stuck behind No. 7 Texas (11-1), the team that beat them in Tuscaloosa way back in week 2. Alabama needed a 31-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 32 seconds remaining to beat 6-6 Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday.

The million-dollar question, then, is whether Alabama as an eighth-ranked team could knock off No. 1 Georgia and catapult to fourth or higher to get into the playoff? It has never been done, by the way. That was posed to selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan after the rankings were revealed.

“Good question, fair question, but it’s kind of asking us to project on where we are,” Corrigan told reporters in the post-show teleconference call. “Our goal is to watch games this weekend, and it’ll be great to be able to watch them as a group as we go through it and as we’ve talked about before. Conference championships and head-to-heads and everything that we look at per the protocol will be in full effect of what we’re doing and making sure that we make the right decisions.”

The ranking of the once-beatens was not arrived at lightly. Corrigan said the group debated it all weekend and actually met together again early Tuesday to make sure everyone was still in agreement on the order.

All 11-1, all with good wins, all obviously have lost a game,” Corrigan said. " ... As we came through the evaluation of that, after weighing many points and making sure that we took our time going through it, we ended up where we did at 5, 6, 7 and 8.”

Even though the top four all remain undefeated, there was considerable debate about whether Florida State should be ahead of some of the one-loss teams. The Seminoles (12-0) are having to play without quarterback Jordan Travis, who was lost to a season-ending injury in week 12 and the argument is they’re no longer one of the four best teams, as the committee is charged to settle on.

“It’s pretty obvious with Jordan Travis not playing and Tate Rodemaker playing, they’re a different team, just as anyone would be if they lost their quarterback in that situation,” Corrigan said. “But they were able to get a win down in Gainesville. They were able to put up 24 points. ... We’re just evaluating it at this point where they are with the body of work throughout the season.”

Credit: Sarah K. Spencer/AJC

At least one mystery was cleared up for anyone who might’ve been wondering. Should the Bulldogs, a 6-point favorite as of Tuesday, beat Alabama in the SEC title game, they’ll be headed to New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl for their semifinal. CFP executive director Bill Hancock confirmed that the top-ranked team would be given first dibs.

“Preference goes to the No. 1 team, so they would take the bowl closer to their fans, and then of course the No. 2 team and its opponent would go to the other game,” said Hancock, in his last year as director. “As you know, the semifinals this year are at the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl. I thought it might be helpful to just clarify that.”

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