‘Dominant’ Georgia undisputed at No. 1 again in third CFP rankings

Georgia's quarterbacks, including senior starter Stetson Bennett (right), warm up early in practice on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 at Woodruff Practice Fields (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

Credit: Tony Walsh

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Georgia's quarterbacks, including senior starter Stetson Bennett (right), warm up early in practice on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 at Woodruff Practice Fields (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

ATHENS – Georgia players and coaches insist they’re maintaining the same laser focus that has gotten them to the 12th week of the season unbeaten and undisputed as the nation’s No. 1 team. But with only a pair of overmatched, non-conference opponents remaining in the regular season, they are lifting their eyes up ever so slightly to admire their accomplishments to date.

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“It’s an incredible feeling seeing all this work pay off,” sophomore safety Dan Jackson said of the Bulldogs going 8-0 in SEC for the first time ever with Saturday’s 41-17 win over Tennessee. “That’s what we get up and work every day for. We made it in the history books this weekend, and we’re very appreciative of that. But we’re not near done, and everybody on the team knows that. We’ve got a long way to go to become what we really want to be.”

That body of work was validated for the third week in a row Tuesday as the 10-0 Bulldogs again were tabbed the nation’s top team by the College Football Playoff selection committee.

“Well, one of the questions that the committee had several weeks ago was Stetson Bennett going to continue on as the quarterback,” selection committee chair Gary Barta said. “It looks like he’s secured that spot, at least just watching week to week. The offense is in the top 15 in scoring. James Cook had a big game this past week.

“The defense, sort of what I said earlier about Ohio State having one of the best offenses, Georgia has the best defense in the country, but their offense continues to play efficiently and play much better with each passing week. It’s just a dominant team on both sides of the ball.”

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Georgia's quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) shouts instructions in the first half during a NCAA football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia's quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) shouts instructions in the first half during a NCAA football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Georgia's quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) shouts instructions in the first half during a NCAA football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The top six teams remained unchanged, with Alabama (9-1), Oregon (9-1), Ohio State (9-1), Cincinnati (10-0) and Michigan (9-1) following Georgia.

“Nothing else to say about Georgia,” cracked Joey Galloway, one of ESPN’s analysts for the weekly selections reveal. “This just in: They’re really good on defense.”

For the second consecutive week, the discussion remained most intense around Cincinnati as the only Group of 5 team remaining in the hunt for a playoff spot, and the Wolverines remaining at No. 6 despite their only loss being to No. 7 Michigan State (9-1).

But when it comes to Georgia, the majority of conversation was about what might happen to Alabama if it lost to the Bulldogs in a close SEC Championship game. The panel agreed that the Crimson Tide is a “virtual lock” to represent the West with games remaining at home against Arkansas and on the road against an Auburn team likely without quarterback Bo Nix.

For the record, Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN believes a two-loss Alabama would drop out of the top four and be supplanted by Cincinnati. But the Bearcats first must survive SMU on Saturday and Houston in the American Athletic Conference Championship game.

The panelists all seem to agree that Georgia’s in the playoff even with a loss to Alabama, provided it’s not an egregiously lopsided defeat.

In the meantime, Georgia has only Charleston Southern (4-5, 3-4 Big South) and Georgia Tech (3-7, 2-6 ACC) left to negotiate. Las Vegas handicappers are refusing to even put a line on Saturday’s game against an FCS opponent. The Bulldogs have won their other games against FBS competition by an average score of 38.7 to 7.6.

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Georgia tight end Brock Bowers attempts to make a catch in Georgia's 41-17 win over Tennessee

Credit: Tony Walsh

Georgia football-Tennessee-winners-losers

Credit: Tony Walsh

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Georgia tight end Brock Bowers attempts to make a catch in Georgia's 41-17 win over Tennessee

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

Coach Kirby Smart said he constantly worries about complacency and was “frustrated” from a Monday practice he felt was a little too laid-back.

“I felt like there was a relaxed atmosphere and not that killer instinct that I’ve seen on some Mondays,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “It was a little frustrating for me because we’ve had really good practices. I don’t know if that was a relief from the Tennessee game or if that was about who we’re playing, but I just was not pleased with it. It was better (Tuesday), but it still wasn’t what I expected our Tuesdays to be.”

Smart said he planned to reach out to team leaders to make sure they police any such let-ups this week. Those leaders are listening.

“I think coach Smart said it earlier, ‘We’ve got a chance to be really special here,’” Jackson said. “But we’ve got a long way to go, so we can’t get complacent, and I don’t think we’re doing that.”

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