No. 1 Georgia not part of playoff rankings shakeup

Georgia placekicker Jack Podlesny (96) prepares to attempt a 53-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining against Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, Jan. 1, 2020. Podlesny made it, with room to spare and the Bulldogs went on to win 24-21. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)
Caption
Georgia placekicker Jack Podlesny (96) prepares to attempt a 53-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining against Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, Jan. 1, 2020. Podlesny made it, with room to spare and the Bulldogs went on to win 24-21. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

Ohio State jumps Alabama and Cincinnati moves into top 4

ATHENS – The latest College Football Playoff rankings show made for fascinating television Tuesday night with lots of movement at the top. But none of the drama involved Georgia, which remained No. 1 for the fourth consecutive week.

But that’s not why Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart didn’t watch. Even though his team is intimately involved in the proceedings and will be profoundly affected by the outcome of these very rankings, Smart said he doesn’t need to know who’s in or out or what needs to happen Saturday to set the four-team field for the playoffs.

“No,” Smart said, pausing for five seconds to scoff at the question of whether he’d tune in Tuesday night.

Not at all, he was asked again?

“I don’t have time,” said Smart, who’s preparing the 11-0 Bulldogs for Saturday’s regular-season finale against Georgia Tech (3-8) in Atlanta. “I mean, I’m trying to go do third-down (analysis) right now, and do red area and do everything else. I don’t have any time for it. Between recruiting, worrying about our players, trying to get ready for our game, that’s the least of my worries.”

Smart missed some fireworks.

Had he been paying attention, he would have seen that Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC), the team that Georgia will meet in the SEC Championship game a week from Saturday, fell one spot to No. 3 in the latest rankings. That was based on an unimpressive defensive performance in a 42-35 win over Arkansas at home last week. That also was based on Ohio State’s thorough annihilation of Michigan State (56-7) last week in Columbus.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit referred to the Buckeyes as “offensively terrifying” and shared in a growing national sentiment to see an eventual matchup with the defensively terrifying Bulldogs.

“Georgia’s ‘D’ versus Ohio State’s offense would be great TV,” said Herbstreit, an Ohio State alum.

Had he been watching, Smart would’ve seen Cincinnati become the highest-ranked Group of Five team in the playoff era. The Bearcats, sitting at No. 5 for a couple of weeks, finally broke into the top four, filling the vacancy left there from Oregon’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Utah on Saturday.

The Bearcats (11-0) wrap up the regular season on the road at East Carolina (7-4) at 3:30 p.m. Friday, then will meet Houston (10-1) in the American Athletic Conference Championship game. If Cincinnati wins both, and it’s heavily favored to do so, at the very least it should remain at No. 4 for the playoffs.

Likewise, if Georgia defeats the Yellow Jackets on Saturday and vanquishes the Bama beast in the conference title game Dec. 4, then the Bulldogs could draw Cincinnati in the national semifinals. That would represent a repeat of last year’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl matchup, eked out by the Bulldogs on a 53-yard field in the final seconds of regulation.

Some thought Michigan (10-1) might leapfrog the Bearcats into the No. 4 spot. But Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell told ESPN’s panel of experts he believes his team belongs in football’s final four.

“I think we’re a really good football team, and I think we can compete at the highest level,” he said. “I say that because we’re good in all three phases and I’ve never been around this good of a team with 30-something seniors.”

Only two CFP rankings remain before setting the field for the 2021 playoffs, at 7 p.m. Tuesday and at noon Dec. 5, the Sunday after the conference championship games are completed.

Other notable developments unveiled by the selection committee Tuesday night included Michigan (10-1), Notre Dame (10-1) and Oklahoma State (10-1) moving into the Nos. 5, 6 and 7 spots, respectively. The Wolverines (10-1) get Ohio State at home Saturday and the Cowboys (10-1) play Oklahoma in the “Bedlam” rivalry in games that could further shake up the standings.

Also, Clemson (8-3), which dismantled Wake Forest on Saturday, popped into the CFP ranking for the first time this season at No. 23. The Tigers were No. 3 in the opinion polls when Georgia beat them 10-3 in the Duke’s Mayo Classic to open the season.

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