College Football Playoff Rankings: All Eyes on Georgia in Championship Week

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2019

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) talks to running back D'Andre Swift during an NCAA college football game against Georgia Tech, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
John Amis/Associated Press

Are you a Clemson, LSU or Ohio State fan, or have you latched onto any of those three programs because your favorite team is eliminated from the championship chase? I have good news: If any of them win this weekend, then they're in the College Football Playoff.

Those of you pulling for a different team, though, should know exactly which school you're watching closely this weekend: Georgia.

Barring a stunning blowout loss from either Clemson or Ohio State, there is only one College Football Playoff spot up for grabs. Anyone rooting for Baylor, Oklahoma or Utah is begging LSU's dynamic offense for one final high-scoring display this Saturday.

Otherwise, the field is likely set.

According to Caesars, Clemson is a 28.5-point favorite over Virginia in the ACC Championship Game. Ohio State is a 16.5-point favorite against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Larger upsets have happenedand we'll reassess the CFP outlook if they dobut we're penciling in the Tigers and Buckeyes for Top Four slots.

The most impactful result of the weekend is the SEC Championship Game, in which Georgia is a 7.5-point underdog to LSU.

If Georgia loses, either the Big 12 winner (Oklahoma or Baylor) or a Pac-12 champion Utah would receive the No. 4 ranking on Selection Day.

The alternative is unfriendly to the trio chasing Georgia.

LSU has earned an impressive group of Top 25 wins while also dominating inferior teams. The Tigers have defeated No. 9 Florida, No. 11 Auburn and No. 12 Alabama, and they're averaging a 33-point margin of victory in the nine remaining games. Texas is the only one of the latter group to stay within 20 points.

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

And if LSU's only setback is a loss to a CFP-bound Georgiaespecially if it's a close gamehow much should the committee penalize the Tigers? Conference championships have an impact, but there is a precedent for a one-loss team making the Playoff anyway (2016 Ohio State and 2017 Alabama).

The selection committee could easily determine that LSU is unequivocally one of the nation's four best teams. Whether you think it should happen is irrelevant; the evidence is clearly there.

Oklahoma and Baylorat bestwould present two Top 25 wins, while Utah is aiming for its first in the Pac-12 title game. Oklahoma lost to Kansas State. Baylor has four one-score victories over programs that didn't reach a bowl. Utah fell to USC.

Is it possible the committee takes one over LSU? Sure. That's not a situation Baylor, Oklahoma or Utah want to face, though.

Blame the trio's conference affiliations if you'd like, but LSU has more chances for marquee wins in the SEC and took advantage of those opportunities while avoiding a misstep. Even with a loss in Atlanta, the Tigers have probably already earned a place in the College Football Playoff.

Baylor, Oklahoma and Utah are hoping Georgia doesn't do the same.

          

Big 12 vs. Utah

Since we're approaching this subject, let's assume LSU wins. That, remember, is likely the only way this conversation matters.

Considering the previous rankings, the selection committee seems to favor Utah. Through five weeks, the Utes have been slotted ahead of the Sooners in every release. And with No. 13 Oregon awaiting Friday, Utah has a chance to earn its best win of the season.

On the other hand, we can't exactly expect consistency from a group with inadequate transparency on its ranking process. That much has become obvious week after week for a half-decade.

Utah passes the eye test with exemplary grades. The Utes rank ninth nationally at 6.9 yards per play and have scored 30-plus points in 10 games. Plus, they lead the FBS in rushing defense and hold top-three marks in total and scoring defense.

However, the committee favors subjective metricson-field dominance, game control, etc.until it randomly decides to do otherwise.

Strictly based on the resume test, then, Oklahoma or Baylor has the edge. After all, both programs hold more Top 25 wins than Utah, and either OU or Baylor will add a higher-ranked victory Saturday.

Common sense suggests that if either Baylor or Oklahoma were going to leap past Utah, it would've happened already. But we know better than to suggest the committee isn't considering a last-second switch, especially if Utah doesn't obliterate Oregon.

          

Dabo Swinney's Calculated Rants

Clemson nearly lost to North Carolina in September. During the first half of the season, Trevor Lawrence threw a lot of interceptions. Since then, the Tigers have quietly steamrolled every opponent and earned seven straight wins of 31-plus points.

Head coach Dabo Swinney wishes we would've been louder about it. And by we, I specifically mean the media.

By pulling out the disrespect card, Swinney has accomplished exactly what he wanted: Clemson is a national storyline again.

After beating South Carolina, he whined that the committee is focused on keeping Georgia in the Top Four but eagerly awaiting a moment to drop Clemson. He's since responded to criticism from ESPN's SEC voice Paul Finebaum and felt compelled to "speak the truth" about the program's accomplishments.

So, fine, let's play his game. Is this argument merited? We'll start from the beginning.

  • Ohio State: 4-0 vs. Top 25; 8-0 vs. six-win teams
  • LSU: 3-0 vs. Top 25; 8-0 vs. six-win teams
  • Clemson: 0-0 vs. Top 25; 7-0 vs. six-win teams

From a purely objective standpoint, there is no justification for Clemson being ranked ahead of Ohio State or LSU.

And, no, citing the program's 27-game winning streak is not one. Swinney himself said in September that Clemson hadn't earned the No. 1 ranking in the polls. It's a new season, and every season should be judged on its own results.

Should the Tigers receive the same benefit of the doubt as LSU and Ohio State? The committee seems to think so.

First: We agree. But let's continue the discussion.

One problem is its subjective nature. While the first topic involves a 1-2-3 ranking, the end goal to this question is an unquantifiable answer; it's personal preference.

Plus, both LSU and Ohio State have three marquee wins. They're thriving and beating top teams. It's not Clemson's fault that much of the ACC is hovering between six and nine wins, yet the Tigers cannot afford to perform poorly against Virginia in their lone opportunity for a Top 25 victory.

The final issue is Clemsonshould it fall to Virginiawould join the ranks of one-loss teams, which currently include Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor.

  • Clemson: 0-0 vs. Top 25; 7-0 vs. six-win teams
  • Georgia: 3-0 vs. Top 25; 8-1 vs. six-win teams
  • Utah: 0-1 vs. Top 25; 5-1 vs. six-win teams
  • Oklahoma: 2-0 vs. Top 25; 5-1 vs. six-win teams
  • Baylor: 1-1 vs. Top 25; 4-1 vs. six-win teams

From our perspective, despite the first conclusion of Clemson being a superior team, Swinney took aim at the wrong competition. If Georgia can add another Top 25 win and improve to 9-1 against bowl-eligible teamssomething Dabo cited as a defense of the ACC's depth, per Joshua Needelman of the Post and Courierthe Bulldogs would be the most accomplished 12-1 team.

Rather, he should be comparing the ACC's depth to both the Big 12 and Pac-12. Clemson has a much greater case to stay ahead of Baylor, Oklahoma and Utah than it does Georgia.

Within that group, the records vs. Top 25 competition aren't hugely compelling any one wayperhaps save for Oklahoma possibly being 3-0. Given the Sooners' recent tight finishes while Clemson has dominated its competition, though, you could still make the eye-test argument in favor of Swinney's team.

If you're asking me, Clemson is indisputably one of the country's four best teams. On Tuesday's selection show, ESPN analysts Rece Davis and Jesse Palmer said the same.

Both the offense and defense are statistically elite, and the eye test has matched it except for one day in Chapel Hill. Lawrence has produced at a spectacular rate over the last six weeks while the defense has allowed more than 14 points once all season.

Swinney doesn't need to convince the media of Clemson's merits. His campaigning is all about making sure the committee weighs his team's dominance more heavily than Top 25 wins.

          

Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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