Bradley’s Buzz: With Bama’s slide, this is again UGA’s year

A team like Georgia doesn’t often receive what’s known in England as a short, sharp shock. The Bulldogs don’t lose often. They’re 27-1 since Nov. 7, 2020. They’re accustomed to being Mighty Georgia.

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The close call at Missouri got their attention, but the Bulldogs knew darn well Mizzou couldn’t hold them off for 60 minutes. But what the College Football Playoff committee did? They felt that.

The first CFP rankings had Georgia No. 3. Not No. 1, where they’ve often been lately. Not even No. 2. They were ranked below Tennessee – which had, it must be said, done more in 2022 than any team, UGA included – but below Ohio State. SEC teams and coaches don’t often say it for public consumption, but they regard the Big Ten the way an elephant views a gnat.

(That halftime time score again: Georgia 27, Michigan 3.)

Being ranked No. 3 – one spot above Clemson, which hasn’t dazzled anyone in two years – was a punch to the solar plexus. It hurt. It was embarrassing. It was, to the Bulldogs, a miscarriage of justice.

What Georgia saw as a wrong has been righted. As center Peter Anderson said after the 1985 Bulldogs beat No. 1 Florida 24-3 after losing 27-0 the year before: “We restored order to nature.”

The Bulldogs will stay No. 1 in the CFP rankings through the first Sunday in December, which means they’ll play their semifinal, perhaps against Oregon, in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on New Year’s Eve. Those two met in the same building on Labor Day weekend. The Ducks finished 46 points in arrears.

ExploreBradley: Mighty Georgia is rumbling still

Nature in its totality, however, has seen a change. Alabama proved in Baton Rouge what we’ve believed since September: This Bama isn’t nearly the usual Bama. Its once-immovable defense couldn’t stop LSU from scoring near the end of regulation. In overtime, the Tigers needed two snaps to score eight points. Even Bryce Young couldn’t save the Tide.

Alabama has two losses. No team has made the playoff with two losses. If LSU beats Arkansas, which just lost to Liberty, or Texas A&M, which is losing to everybody, the Tigers will meet Georgia for the SEC championship.

(Oh, and for those who believed Brian Kelly couldn’t win down in these parts: He mightn’t be Mr. Congeniality, but the man can coach.)

Georgia mightn’t have seen the last of the Volunteers. Tennessee has Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt remaining. An 11-1 Tennessee would still have victories over Bama and LSU. Ohio State and Michigan play one another. TCU plays in Austin on Saturday. A one-loss Pac-12 winner – Oregon, USC or UCLA – could make it. The ACC’s only hope is Clemson, which just lost by 21 points to unranked Notre Dame.

And what of Ole Miss? If it beats Alabama on Saturday, the Rebels could, like Tennessee, finish 11-1 and be left out of the SEC title game. If TCU loses and the Pac-12 threesome beats each other and Clemson trips again, could the field of four be Georgia, Ohio State/Michigan, Tennessee AND Ole Miss?

Down here where It Just Means More, we spent last week thinking the playoff might include three SEC teams, one being Alabama. That’s not happening now. It would be fun to see Lane Kiffin in a semifinal. As we speak, the Rebels have no signature victory. Beating Alabama would change that.

Or would it? It will be fascinating to see what the committee does with Bama. Its only losses came on the road by narrow margins against excellent teams. Only once since 2010 has the Tide finished with two regular-season losses. That was in 2019, when Alabama lost to LSU, the eventual champ, and at Auburn by a field goal without Tua Tagovailoa. The committee dropped 10-2 Bama to No. 13 in its final rankings.

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Over time, the committee has been gentle with the Tide. When Bama had no chance to play for either an SEC or a national title in 2019, the CFP dropped the hammer. It was as if the folks who huddle in Grapevine, Texas, were saying: “They can’t accuse us of being Tide-lovers this time.” The minions of Saban didn’t make the New Year’s Six, being banished to the Citrus to meet three-loss Michigan. (Bama won by 19. Your Big Ten in action yet again.)

The world of college football began changing last year. Nick Saban, who’d never lost to a former assistant, lost to Jimbo Fisher – remember when Jimbo could coach? – and Kirby Smart. Now LSU must lose twice for the Tide to slip into the SEC championship game. Should LSU beat Georgia for the title, the two-loss Tigers could slip into the CFP. With Alabama off the grid, strange things could happen.

The strangest thing won’t happen, though. LSU won’t beat Georgia. Nobody’s beating Georgia.

The above is part of a regular exercise, written and collated by yours truly, available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Bradley’s Buzz, which includes more opinions and extras like a weekly poll, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We’d be obliged if you’d give it a try.

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