Georgia won more games in a row than any SEC team ever. It won the College Football Playoff two years running, which not even Alabama has done. But we were, in the final moments of Saturday’s loss, reminded of the fine margins even great teams confront.
On Dec. 31, 2022, the Bulldogs had to hunker down one last time to blunt Ohio State in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Buckeyes were headed toward the north end zone. Their quarterback – C.J. Stroud – broke a 27-yard run that put the reigning titlist in position to lose on a field goal. Noah Ruggles’ 50-yard kick missed. A giddy Georgia headed to L.A. for another CFP final. It won by 58 points.
Eleven months later, Georgia again needed a stop. Again, the opponent was moving the same way in the same building. Again, the opposing quarterback – Jalen Milroe – popped loose, this time for 30 yards. With one more first down, the Bulldogs were out of time. It happens. It finally happened to them.
To be fair, this Georgia team seemed slightly lesser than its majestic predecessors. It rushed for only 72 yards against Alabama. The Tide gained 117 yards on its final two drives, which saw them score a touchdown and kill the clock.
Never had the No. 1 team in the CFP’s penultimate rankings fallen from the top four. One has now.
This will be the final four-team playoff. Next season will see more inclusion but less quality. It might also see two conferences fill eight or nine of the dozen spots. This year’s final four – Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama – will, come 2024, represent only the Big Ten and SEC. Which brings us to Florida State and the ACC.
The Seminoles were omitted because their quarterback got hurt. They still beat Florida – they were 2-0 against the Just-Means-More league – but their No. 2 QB got hurt. They stll beat Louisville for the ACC title in one of the grittiest performances on record. They won every game they played. They did everything in their power. The committee said, “Not good enough.”
The committee chair is Boo Corrigan, athletic director at N.C. State, an ACC school. Jim Grobe, who in 2006 led Wake Forest to an ACC championship victory over Georgia Tech in the worst game ever, is on the committee.
Moments after the snub, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips released a statement calling the decision “unfathomable” and saying: “Florida State deserved better. College football deserved better.”
From Michael Alford, FSU’s AD: “The argument of whether a team is the ‘most deserving OR best’ is a false equivalence. It renders the season up to yesterday irrelevant and significantly damages the legitimacy of the College Football Playoff.”
From Mike Norvell, who coached the game of his life Saturday in Charlotte: “I am disgusted and infuriated with the committee’s decision today to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided they knew better than the results of the games,”
From Jordan Travis, the No. 1 quarterback injured against North Alabama: “I thought results matter.”
Me, I’d have included Florida State and excluded Texas. I know the Longhorns won in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 9, but their second- and third-best victories were over Oklahoma State and Kansas State, each of which has four losses. For some reason, this committee was determined to keep Alabama one spot behind Texas, and its final act was to bump those two, in lockstep, from Nos. 7 and 8 to Nos. 3 and 4.
As fate would have it, Georgia and Florida State will meet Dec. 30 in the Orange Bowl. It will be a strange game. Neither side will be enthused about its destination. Both believe they were wronged by the committee. One of them was.