Bradley’s Buzz: UGA can lose and make the CFP, but it can’t lose to Bama

Georgia football-Kirk Herbstreit-standard



December 4, 2021 Atlanta - Alabama's head coach Nick Saban and Georgia's head coach Kirby Smart shake hands after Alabama beat Georgia during the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game at during the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, December 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin /

In the eyes of the CFP committee, Georgia is again the nation’s best team. It was likewise ranked No. 1 in 2017, 2021 and last year. Each time, it made the four-team playoff. Twice it gained entrance despite losing while No. 1.

In 2017, the Bulldogs finished No. 3 after falling at Auburn, a reversal corrected by beating the Tigers for the SEC championship. In 2021, Georgia again finished No. 3 after being beaten by Alabama for the conference title. Something akin to the first scenario could happen again.

Georgia could lose at Tennessee on Saturday and, provided it beats Alabama on Dec. 2, make the last-ever field of four. Now the bad news: Should the Bulldogs’ one loss be to Bama, there mightn’t be a way back. The committee membership changes with time, but this hasn’t: These folks love conference champs.

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.

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