Four teams were selected to the College Football Playoff on Sunday afternoonbut there is a clear separation between No. 1 Georgia and the other three.
It’s the undefeated, defending national champion Bulldogs and three unseeded teams: No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 TCU and No. 4 Ohio State.
For the second time in the nine-year playoff history, Alabama will miss out on the championship. The Crimson Tide’s two losses and lack of a signature win were too much to overcome. Nick Saban’s team is ranked fifth by the committee, meaning the two-loss team has yet to make the playoffs.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t feel like Alabama in the playoffs. Georgia (13-0) is the new Alabama, the overwhelming favorite to repeat for the first time since Alabama in 2011-12. The Bulldogs have won 15 straight and 29 of their last 30.
They are 7-point favorites over Ohio State on New Year’s Eve in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. They went undefeated in the SEC, knocked off No. 15 Oregon to start the season, and really didn’t have to break a sweat all season.
Now the committee did Georgia no favors by sending Ohio south. The Buckeyes are a much more talented team than TCU, and they will face Michigan in the first game on Dec. 31 in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.
If the Buckeyes can get explosive playmakers Jackson Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson back from injury, they could give the Bulldogs a tough shot.
The real question heading into Sunday was: Will TCU hold off No. 3 Ohio State? After all, the Horned Frogs lost to Kansas State 31-28 in overtime in the Big 12 championship while Ohio State was idle on Saturday.
“When you look at TCU, it’s 6-1 against .500 teams, 2-1 against ranked teams, Ohio State has good wins over Penn State and Notre Dame, and it’s three-quarters of a game against Michigan,” the Sheep mita chairman Boo Corrigan said in a video conference. “But at the end of the day, we came back to TCU and nothing happened during that time [Big-12 title] A performance against Kansas State, which we didn’t believe in, took them out of the No. 3 spot.
All three non-Georgia teams have shown weaknesses, even Michigan (13-0), which will be without the services of star Blake Corum, who underwent surgery on an injured left knee. Without Corum, Michigan may not have the offensive firepower needed to hang with the Bulldogs. TCU (12-1) lost to ninth-ranked Kansas State, hasn’t faced anyone close to Georgia and has had to play against average Big 12 opponents all season. Ohio State (11-1) was recently blown out at home by Michigan and hasn’t looked right all season. The Buckeyes were only picked because USC was swept by Utah in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday night, which Ohio State coach Ryan Day admitted was a strange way to enter the playoffs on Sunday.
“I don’t know how many people will give us a chance in this game [against Georgia]Day said.
Georgia really has an incredible balance. Second in scoring defense (12.7) and 11th in points scored (39.2), 18th in rushing and 19th in passing. The Bulldogs defense has allowed 23 points in the first quarter all season. Georgia outscored the opposition an absurd 509-166. His eight SEC opponents scored just 97 points. Only one game was decided by one score, an Oct. 26-22 win over Missouri. Georgia has outscored the top three opponents it has faced — No. 6 Tennessee, No. 17 LSU and Oregon — 129-36.
After losing so many key players to the NFL, the Bulldogs figured they would take a bit of a step back this offseason. Only 10 starters return from last year’s championship squad, which was ranked third in the Associated Press poll.
It doesn’t matter. Five-star players replaced five-star players. This team is actually more balanced, less reliant on stifling defense and dominant running backs. Quarterback Stetson Bennett had a stellar year, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 3,425 yards, throwing just six interceptions while completing 68.1 percent of his passes.
Alabama was the preseason favorite, a team with a Heisman Trophy heavyweight in 2021 winner quarterback Bryce Young. In later years, Ohio State was on paper one of the most talented groups of Buckeyes. At least they made the playoffs unlike the Crimson Tide.
Meanwhile, Georgia did what Alabama often did under Saban: replace stars with stars and somehow get better after losing key players. The Bulldogs will now look to repeat and move into the final round on January 9th at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California as favorites. Everything else will be the biggest surprise in an unpredictable season.