Latest win further separates No. 1 Georgia from other unbeatens, CFP committee says

ATHENS — And then there were three.

That’s how many SEC teams still have a shot to reach the College Football Playoff entering Week 12 of the season. Georgia is, of course, one of them. Tennessee and LSU are the other two.

ExploreWho's No. 1? The Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs (10-0, 7-0 SEC) retained the top spot in the third reveal of the rankings Tuesday – three days after their 45-19 road victory over Mississippi State. They’ll seek to record their second consecutive undefeated SEC season this weekend against Kentucky (6-4, 3-4) in Lexington. The Bulldogs are 22 ½-point favorites.

The committee still loves Georgia.

“When we look at it, we notice the win over Tennessee, the win over Oregon, the top-10 defense, another win for them this past week at Mississippi State,” selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan said in a teleconference call after the rankings were revealed between televised basketball games Tuesday night. “In the eyes of the committee, that’s a separator for us.”

TCU (10-0) held onto the fourth spot after its 17-10 road win over Texas kept it undefeated. The Horned Frogs were up 17-3 before the Longhorns got a “scoop-and-score touchdown” late in the fourth quarter.

So, TCU was never significantly challenged, much to the chagrin of Tennessee (9-1), which remains the top-ranked one-loss team at No. 5. The Vols will be Baylor fans this weekend when TCU has to travel to Waco to face the Bears (6-4).

Ohio State and Michigan remained 2 and 3, respectively. But the issue between which of those two teams is best will be settled on the field Nov. 26 when they meet in Columbus, Ohio. Each is heavily favored this weekend, with the Wolverines (10-0) playing host to Illinois (7-3) and the Buckeyes (10-0) facing Maryland (6-4) on the road.

ExploreA look back at Georgia's win over Tennessee

The thought among the Vols’ faithful is that their team will jump into the Top 4 as soon as one of the undefeated teams falls. That likely will be the case, but they could just as easily be replaced after the conference championship games.

Particularly problematic for Tennessee would be Southern Cal (9-1) winning out. USC is sitting two spots behind the Vols at No. 7, and the committee would have to decide whether the Trojans as Pac-12 champions should be elevated over a Tennessee team that didn’t play in its conference championship. Meanwhile, no matter how many points the Vols score the rest of the way – they put 66 on Missouri last Saturday in Knoxville – South Carolina and Vanderbilt don’t allow them to make much more of an impression.

As for LSU, its task is the simplest: Just win them all. The Tigers (8-2, 6-1) have UAB at home Saturday before wrapping up the regular season on the road at Texas A&M (3-7, 1-6). They’ll get No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 3 in Atlanta. Win there and LSU will put pressure on the committee to make it the first two-loss team in playoff history.

The thought is a one-loss Bulldogs team still would be in, provided they’re not embarrassed in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. If the CFP selection committee were crowning a champion at this point, though, clearly that would be Georgia.

“The committee believes there’s been separation with Georgia, but there’s still more games to play as we kind of get through the balance of the season,” Corrigan said Tuesday. “Again, looking at those three teams (UGA, Ohio State and Michigan) and how balanced they are offensively and defensively, we have determined that Georgia is ahead of the other two.”

Alabama (8-2) moved up one spot to No. 8 after its road win over Ole Miss (8-2) on Saturday. But with games remaining against Austin Peay and Auburn, the Crimson Tide have no realistic avenue back into playoff consideration.

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