Good morning. This is LEADOFF, today’s early look inside Atlanta sports.
Ranked No. 14 by the College Football Playoff selection committee five weeks ago, Auburn will bring the committee’s No. 2 ranking into Saturday’s SEC Championship game against Georgia in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Auburn’s climb from No. 14 in the committee’s first rankings of the season Oct. 31 was turbocharged by two wins over then-No. 1 teams. The 40-17 win over Georgia on Nov. 11 propelled the Tigers from No. 10 to No. 6. And the 26-14 win over Alabama last week vaulted the Tigers from No. 6 to No. 2 in the new rankings released Tuesday night.
Shortly after the rankings release, selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt – Texas Tech’s athletic director -- discussed the committee’s view of Auburn on a conference call with reporters.
“When we talked about Auburn over the course of the last two days, Auburn is a team that’s played well all year, (had an) impressive win over Mississippi State and then obviously two of the last three weeks over the No. 1-ranked team at the time,” Hocutt said.
“Auburn is a physical team. They’re balanced, getting solid play from the quarterback position at this point in time in the season. The two losses (were) to a ranked LSU team (and) a head-to-head loss to Clemson.”
In fact, Auburn’s 14-6 loss at Clemson on Sept. 9 might be the reason Clemson is now ranked No. 1.
“The selection committee is really impressed with Clemson’s resume, and I would say the victory over Auburn is definitely a highlight there,” Hocutt said Tuesday night.
He said Clemson has “other quality wins against Louisville, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and South Carolina, but that win over Auburn is significant.”
READ ON ...
The latest CFP rankings underscore the importance of Saturday’s conference championship games in determining which teams will make the playoff. Title games in three leagues -- ACC, SEC and Big Ten -- will match teams ranked within the top eight. See story here.
The two portions of the Georgia Dome that remained standing after last week’s implosion will be demolished by the end of the year, possibly with another smaller-scale implosion, the lead contractor said Tuesday. See story here.
Georgia’s defense needs to shine against Auburn, because that’s why Kirby Smart is here, Jeff Schultz writes. Read his column here.
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