SEC Commissioner weighs in on Georgia, expanded playoffs

ATHENS – SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey on Saturday referenced Georgia when making a case – again – for a 12-team college football playoff.

“We don’t include the West Coast in the College Football Playoff (five) of seven years; that’s not good for college football. We’ve had Georgia finish fifth, we’ve had Texas A&M finish fifth,” Sankey said. “Those young people on those teams aren’t worried about playing 16 games. They want the opportunity to play for a national championship. But people are going to have to come to the table with their perspective, with their votes.”

Sankey found himself in an impromptu scrum with reporters in the back of the press box at TIAA Bank Field right before the Georgia-Florida game kicked off Saturday in Jacksonville. Sankey watched the Bulldogs dispatch Florida 34-7 in yet another dominating victory. The win later proved to be an SEC East title-clincher for Georgia.

Interest in the College Football Playoff expanding from its current format of four teams is piquing because of the CFP management committee is supposed to meet with presidents and commissioners in Dallas this week to resume the discussion and possibly vote on action.

For the record, Sankey prefers the 12-team model and not one that includes eight teams.

“Four or 12,” Sankey said. “Eight with a whole bunch of automatic opportunities for conference champions does not work. I’ve been abundantly clear about that.”

Meanwhile, Sankey and other college football decision-makers are being pressured by bowl directors for the bowls to be included in any expansion model. The format working group has suggested playing first-round games on the respective campuses of the participants. A letter from 43 bowl directors was sent out to commissioners, athletic directors and presidents on Oct. 28.

It read: “We believe any plan for an expanded playoff should include all playoff games being played within the traditional bowl structure, not the home site of one of the participating teams. The bowls would provide a neutral, competitively fair setting for these games as they have throughout their history. To exclude bowl games from any round of an expanded playoff would be harmful to bowl season, individual bowls and their host communities, and post-season college football in general.”

“The format working group has said, ‘let’s play those first-round games on campuses,’” Sankey said. “So, that’s a clear tell on my part. But I’m certainly open to listening to the conversation.”

As for Georgia, the Bulldogs have been somewhat unlucky when it comes to any playoff format college football has used over the years. The BCS era was particularly cruel.

In 2002, Georgia won the SEC championship but was left out of the two-team BCS as the No. 4 team and ultimately finished third. In 2004, the Bulldogs finished the regular season No. 4 and ultimately wound up as the nation’s No. 2 team with a big win in the Sugar Bowl. In 2012, Georgia was widely considered the country’s second-best team after losing a tight game to Alabama in the SEC Championship. The Crimson Tide defeated an overmatched Notre Dame team for the national title.

In the playoff era, Georgia was fifth in the CFP rankings in 2018 and ‘19 and eighth last year.

At the moment, the 2021 Bulldogs would appear to be in great shape. The first CFP rankings of the year come out on Tuesday. After beating Florida in Jacksonville this past Saturday, the Bulldogs improved to 8-0 (7-0 SEC) and remained the consensus No. 1 team in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ polls for a fourth consecutive week.

The Bulldogs will be heavily-favored in their remaining games against Missouri, Tennessee, Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech. Should Georgia remain unscathed, even a loss in the SEC championship game might not keep them out of the playoffs.

The Bulldogs have made the playoffs one time. In 2017, Georgia defeated Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl semifinals, then lost to Alabama in the national championship game in Atlanta.

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