Bradley’s Buzz: Will the ‘C’ in ‘CFP’ stand for ‘chaos’?

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) throws against the TCU Horned Frogs during the second half of the College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Monday, January 9, 2023. Georgia won 65-7 and secured a back-to-back championship. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) throws against the TCU Horned Frogs during the second half of the College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Monday, January 9, 2023. Georgia won 65-7 and secured a back-to-back championship. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

The weekend’s games could leave the selection committee with little to select. If Georgia, Michigan, Washington and Florida State win, the field of four will set itself. A College Football Playoff with four undefeated Power 5 champs: Who’d argue with that?

Should Oregon beat Washington – the No. 5 Ducks are favored – and the other three favorites win, nothing much would change. Three unbeatens plus a one-loss P5 champ that corrected its only misstep: That’d be fine, too.

But what, we ask again, if Alabama beats Georgia? Then everybody would have an argument.

The SEC would scream – and you can’t spell “scream” without “s-e-c” – that both the Tide and the Bulldogs deserve to make it over FSU, even if FSU is 13-0. We’d be treated to a replay of the 2018 debate, when Georgia blew a lead against Bama and finished with two losses and no conference title but felt it merited inclusion over 12-1 Big 12 titlist Oklahoma.

The SEC did its lobbying bit by trotting out a hashtag: #bestfourteams. The flip side of that: #bodyofwork. #bodyofwork won.

Was Georgia among the nation’s four best teams in 2018? Probably. Did it deserve to make the field of four above Oklahoma? Probably not. Having been at this since 2014, the CFP has learned to anticipate such a disconnect.

From Paragraph No. 1 of its guidelines: “The process will inevitably need to select the four best teams from among several with legitimate claims.”

From Paragraph No. 2: “The selection committee will be instructed to place an emphasis on winning conference championships, strength of schedule and head-to-head competition.”

The first point of emphasis from Paragraph No. 2 remains the committee’s North Star. A tie goes to the #bodyofwork that includes a league title. (Though it must be a Power 5 league title.) If Florida State beats Louisville, Lee Corso could be the Seminoles’ No. 1 quarterback – he once was, though not recently – and they’d make the field of four.

Which isn’t to say FSU can’t become a coast-to-coast hot button. If Alabama beats Georgia, the #bestfourteams argument will re-commence. Without QB Jordan Travis, the Seminoles trailed 5-6 Florida 12-0 at halftime. (UGA beat the Gators 43-20.) Louisville, which finished second in the ACC, just lost to Kentucky. (UGA beat the Wildcats 51-13.) And away we’d go.

More fun regarding the Just-Means-More league: The committee has produced five weeks’ worth of rankings; in all five, Alabama has been No. 8 behind the same seven teams. The SEC isn’t accustomed to such treatment. No one-loss SEC team has ever been ranked so low entering the final weekend. This time last year, Alabama and Tennessee each carried two losses and were Nos. 6 and 7.

Only once has a one-loss SEC team missed the playoff – in the COVID year of 2020, when Texas A&M went 8-1 but got stuck at No. 5. (The Aggies lost 52-24 in Tuscaloosa.) If Alabama beats Georgia, the SEC will have two one-loss teams, each of which could become a case study.

At 12-1 with a conference title, Bama could leap from No. 8 to No. 4. No team ranked lower than No. 6 in the penultimate ratings has made the playoff. Georgia rose from No. 6 to No. 3 by beating No. 2 Auburn for the 2017 SEC title. Oklahoma moved from No. 6 to No. 4 in 2019 when No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 Utah lost conference finals.

At 12-1 with a conference title, Alabama might also miss the playoff. If Texas beats Oklahoma State, the Longhorns would be 12-1 Big 12 champs. The committtee has ranked them one spot ahead of Alabama every week. Repeat after me: Texas beat Bama in Tuscaloosa.

At 12-1 without a conference title, Georgia could slip from No. 1 to Thanks-For-Playing. No top-ranked team with a week remaining has missed the playoff. Only once has a one-loss defending champ failed to qualify to defend its title – Ohio State in 2015.

For those saying, “No way a one-loss SEC team doesn’t get in,” we remind you that this committee – membership changes slightly every year – has left the SEC’s second-highest team hanging at No. 8. For those saying, “Georgia with one loss still deserves to make it,” we remind you that the Bulldogs’ one loss would deprive them of a conference title, which is the ultimate tiebreaker.

Above all else, we remind you that, in a decade of the four-team playoff, no previous season reached December with four Power 5 teams unbeaten. If that’s still true as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday, the committee will have a restful night. If not ... whoa, Nellie.

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.

About the Author