Saturday’s SEC Championship Game was an instant classic. While it was the Alabama Crimson Tide who ultimately punched their ticket to the BCS National Championship Game, the Georgia Bulldogs gave them an incredible test, finishing the game just four points down and eight yards away from the end zone when time expired in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs were one play away from playing Notre Dame for a national title. Instead, they won’t be playing in a BCS bowl at all.
With Alabama having already secured the conference’s BCS berth, and the Florida Gators finishing ahead of the Bulldogs at No. 3 in Sunday night’s BCS standings, Georgia was left on the outside looking in. Each conference is only allowed two BCS berths, and with the Crimson Tide and Gators each having just one loss compared to Georgia’s two, the Bulldogs dropped behind in both the computerized rankings and human polls.
This criteria, however, is faulty. Georgia deserved the SEC’s at-large BCS berth in the Sugar Bowl.
At the end of the regular season, Georgia was ranked ahead of Florida, and had an identical 11-1 record to the Gators. When the two teams met head-to-head on Oct. 27, the Bulldogs won 17-9 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
Effectively, the Bulldogs were punished for losing to one of the two best teams in college football, in a game that they were close to winning.
That doesn’t make sense.
The Bulldogs shouldn’t be negatively affected by losing to the Crimson Tide, who will almost certainly be favored going into the national title game. Florida did not play the Crimson Tide, so Georgia’s loss to Alabama proves nothing either way as to which team is better.
A good argument can certainly be made for Florida. Florida has a stronger résumé of wins than Georgia does, including wins over Texas A&M, who beat Alabama; and LSU, who, like Georgia, came just four points short of upsetting the Crimson Tide.
The Gators also blew out the South Carolina Gamecocks by a 44-11 score on Oct. 20. Just two weeks earlier, those same Gamecocks blew out Georgia in a 35-7 rout.
There is only one clear and inarguable factor, however, in comparing these two teams. When the two teams actually played each other, Georgia won.
In a sport that is two years away from finally having a playoff system to determine its champion, head-to-head results ought to mean something. But by Florida earning a BCS bowl berth over Georgia, the Bulldogs’ head-to-head victory is effectively considered meaningless.
Which SEC team deserves the BCS at-large berth in the Sugar Bowl?
The Bulldogs had an equal amount of wins as the Gators, and only had more losses because their win over Florida earned them a spot in the conference championship game. The Gators earned a higher ranking than the Bulldogs because of a flawed system and inept reasoning.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the BCS system is more about numbers than it is about logic.
As a result, the Bulldogs will have to watch a team they beat play in the Sugar Bowl, while they settle for a smaller stage in the CapitalOne Bowl versus Nebraska on Jan. 1.