From 2018 through last season, the CFP’s third set of rankings included at least two SEC teams in its top five. In 2019, there were three. As we speak, the second-highest representative of the Just Means More league isn’t in the top four, or even the top seven. It’s Alabama at No. 8, the spot the Tide has occupied all three weeks.
In the CFP’s third rankings in 2014, a one-loss Bama was No. 1 ahead of an unbeaten team. In 2015, a one-loss Bama was No. 2 ahead of three unbeatens. In 2021, a one-loss Bama was No. 2 behind only 10-0 Georgia. But now the Tide – despite two-touchdown victories over No. 13 Ole Miss, No. 15 LSU and No. 18 Tennessee – is stuck in eighth.
It’s clear the committee views Texas’ Sept. 9 win in Tuscaloosa as a major data point, maybe the most major. The Longhorns have since lost to Oklahoma, now No. 14; beaten Kansas State, now No. 21, in overtime, and beaten No. 25 Kansas. All three weeks, Texas has been No. 7 to Alabama’s No. 8. If each wins out and becomes a conference champ, will that separation hold?
And now we come to the other oddity of CFP 2023. None of this week’s top five has lost. Never over the CFP’s 10 years have there been so many unbeaten Power 5 teams this deep into a season.
Either Ohio State or Michigan will lose. The others might not. If that’s the case, the field sets itself: Georgia, Big Ten champ, Florida State and Washington – all Power 5 winners, none lugging a loss.
If Georgia loses to Tennessee but beats Alabama, the Bulldogs would probably make it as a one-loss SEC titlist. The hedge involves Texas, which could be a one-loss Big 12 champ. There’s no team Texas can beat from here on that’s as good as the Tide, but Texas did beat the Tide.
Also of note: Washington remains No. 5, which means the committee deems it the least of the unbeatens; Oregon, which lost to the Huskies, holds at No. 6, meaning the same body regards it as the best one-loss team. Might a one-loss Pac-12 champ nose ahead of a 12-1 Georgia that loses to Alabama? Can we envision this committee putting two SEC teams among its first four?
Do I believe Georgia will lose to Alabama? No. But that always-loaded game assumes greater weight in this top-heavy season. The Bulldogs won the first of their consecutive national titles after losing to Bama. It’s hard to imagine there’ll be a mulligan this time.
The above is part of a regular exercise available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Go to the AJC.com home page. Click on “Choose from a variety of newsletters” at the top. Click on “Sports Daily.” You’ll need to enter your email address. Thanks, folks.