Georgia reached the top four in the College Football Playoff selection committee's latest rankings, released Tuesday night. The Bulldogs moved up two spots to No. 4 and are the highest-ranked one-loss team.
The committee placed a new team atop the rankings, elevating LSU to No. 1 after its win at Alabama. Ohio State, last week’s top team, was dropped to No. 2, flip-flopping positions with LSU.
Defending national champion Clemson moved up to No. 3 after being ranked No. 5 last week, and Alabama fell to No. 5.
Rounding out the top 10 in the committee’s rankings this week: No. 6 Oregon, No. 7 Utah, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 Penn State and No. 10 Oklahoma.
Rob Mullens, chair of the playoff committee, said Georgia passed Alabama in Tuesday’s rankings on the strength of the Bulldogs’ wins over No. 11 Florida and No. 16 Notre Dame. Those wins overcame the Bulldogs’ home loss to South Carolina in the committee’s assessment.
“The committee spent a lot of time comparing Georgia and Alabama,” Mullens said on a conference call Tuesday night. “In the end, Georgia’s two wins over ranked teams made the difference in the No. 4 spot. Alabama clearly is a strong team, but the committee gave the edge to Georgia.”
He said it “was certainly part of the discussion, no doubt” that Georgia’s loss to South Carolina was worse than Alabama’s loss to LSU.
“We’re aware of the South Carolina loss for Georgia and that Alabama’s loss was to a team that is ranked No. 1, and that is clearly on the board when we’re comparing them,” Mullens said. “But we’re also looking at Georgia’s wins against two top-20 teams, Florida and Notre Dame.”
Georgia’s No. 4 ranking at this point doesn’t substantially alter the Bulldogs’ path to the playoff, which likely would require winning its three remaining regular-season games and the SEC Championship game. The Bulldogs play Saturday at Auburn, ranked No. 12 by the playoff committee Tuesday.
The elevation of LSU to the No. 1 spot was based on its win at Alabama and three previous wins over top-20 teams, said Mullens, who is the athletic director at Oregon.
“When you look at LSU’s resume now, with the win on the road at Alabama to add to the win on the road at Texas, plus two marquee wins at home against Florida and Auburn, that is four ranked wins, the most of any team in the nation,” Mullens said. “With that, the committee felt they deserved to be No. 1.”
Mullens said No. 2 Ohio State “continues to play at a consistently high level on both sides of the ball.” As for No. 3 Clemson: “Although its schedule is not as strong as some others,” Mullens said, “Clemson is an excellent undefeated team. They have gained more than 500 yards of offense in each of their last five games. The committee is impressed with what it sees.”
Undefeated Minnesota, the committee’s No. 17 team last week, soared to No. 8 after beating Penn State, which was ranked No. 4 a week ago.
The 13-member committee will re-rank the teams each of the next four weeks, culminating Dec. 8 with the rankings that will set the field and bracket for the four-team playoff. One of the playoff semifinals this season will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The other semifinal will be in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
Tim Tucker, a long-time AJC sports reporter, often writes about the business side of the games. He also had stints as the AJC's Braves beat writer, UGA beat writer, sports notes columnist and executive sports editor. He was deputy managing editor of America's first all-sports newspaper, The National Sports Daily.