On Sunday afternoon, four teams were picked for the College Football Playoff, but there is a significant gap between No. 1 Georgia and the other three.
The unbeaten, reigning national champion Bulldogs will face the No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 TCU, and No. 4 Ohio State teams.
For just the second time in the playoff’s nine-year existence, Alabama will not participate in determining the winner. The Crimson Tide’s two losses and absence of a trademark victory proved insurmountable. Nick Saban’s squad finished sixth in the committee’s rankings, indicating that a two-loss team has never been chosen to the playoffs.
However, this does not imply that the playoff will not have an Alabama flavor. Georgia (13-0) is the new Alabama, the clear favorite to repeat as national champion for the first time since… Alabama in 2011-12. The Bulldogs have won 15 consecutive matchups and 29 of their past 30.
They are 7-point favorites over Ohio State in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. They are unbeaten in the SEC, defeated the 15th-ranked Oregon Ducks to open the season, and have hardly had to sweat all season.
The committee gave Georgia no favors by placing Ohio State in the south. The Buckeyes are a more skilled squad than TCU, who will meet Michigan in the opening game of the Fiesta Bowl on December 31 in Glendale, Arizona.
Georgia’s Kendall Milton breaks away in the SEC Championship Game.
The Buckeyes might offer a challenge to the Bulldogs if dynamic playmakers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson are able to return from injury.
Prior to Sunday’s announcement, the true issue was whether TCU will supplant Ohio State at No. 3. In fact, while Ohio State was inactive on Saturday, TCU lost the Big 12 Championship to Kansas State 31-28 in overtime.
Boo Corrigan, chairman of the committee, stated in a video conference, “When you look at TCU, they are 6-1 versus teams with a winning record and 2-1 against ranked opponents. Ohio State had solid wins over Penn State and Notre Dame, and they battled Michigan close for three quarters.” “However, at the end of the day, we returned to TCU, and there was nothing that transpired in that [Big-12 championship] game versus Kansas State that we did not feel moved them out of the No. 3 place.”
Even undefeated Michigan (13-0), which will be without star running back Blake Corum because he underwent surgery on his damaged left knee, has demonstrated flaws. Without Corum, Michigan may lack the offensive firepower required to compete with Georgia. TCU (12-1) is coming off a defeat to ninth-ranked Kansas State, hasn’t played anything near to the level of Georgia, and has been forced to come from behind against inferior Big 12 opponents all season. Ohio State (11-1) was just blasted out by Michigan at home and hasn’t looked right all season. The Buckeyes were picked because USC was humiliated by Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game on Friday night, which Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said on Sunday was a peculiar method to qualify for the playoffs.
Ohio State and Michigan are also participating in the College Football Playoff, according to USA TODAY Sports.
Day stated, “I don’t sure how many people will give us a chance in this game [against Georgia].”
Indeed, Georgia has great equilibrium. It ranks second in scoring defense (12.7), eleventh in scoring (39.2), eighteenth in running attack, and nineteenth in passing. All season, the Bulldogs’ defense has surrendered 23 points in the first quarter. Georgia outscored its opponent by a ridiculous 509-166 margin. Eight of its SEC opponents combined for only 97 points. One game was decided by a single touchdown, an Oct. 1 victory against Missouri by a score of 26-22. Georgia outscored its three best opponents — No. 6 Tennessee, No. 17 LSU, and Oregon — by a combined total of 129-36.
After losing so many key players to the NFL, there was some speculation that the Bulldogs may take a step backward this season. Only ten starters from last year’s championship team returned, and they were placed third in the Associated Press preseason poll.
That has been irrelevant. Five-star athletes replaced five-star athletes. This squad is really more balanced, relying less on a stifling defense and strong rushing back. Stetson Bennett had an outstanding season in which he threw for 20 touchdowns, 3,428 yards, and only six interceptions while completing 68.1 percent of his passes.
During the SEC Championship Game, Kirby Smart and Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett celebrate.
Alabama was the preseason favorite, with quarterback Bryce Young the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 2021. On paper, Ohio State had one of the most talented teams in recent memory. At least they made the playoffs, unlike the lackluster Crimson Tide.
Georgia, meanwhile, has done what Alabama has so often done under Saban: Replace stars with stars, and somehow get better after losing key players. On January 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, the Bulldogs will attempt to repeat as the odds-on favorite to be the lone remaining team. Anything other would be the biggest surprise of the season, given its unpredictability.