Alabama beating Georgia would cause College Football Playoff chaos


The final year of the four-team College Football Playoff has the potential for drama. Major questions without a clear answer. Debate that won’t be easily remedied.

Nothing was settled this weekend, other than the Big Ten champion. Michigan is the lone certainty right now, as long as it takes care of heavy underdog Iowa in the Big Ten championship game as expected.

Then, it can get tricky.

Seven other teams remain in play for the playoff, although Ohio State feels like a long shot, needing a lot of results to go its way to sneak in for a second straight season.

The potential launching point for chaos is the mega-showdown between Georgia and Alabama in Atlanta Saturday afternoon. If the Bulldogs prevail, it gets simpler. Otherwise, major complications arise. If Alabama wins, the Crimson Tide get in. But then, doesn’t Texas have to follow, as long as the Longhorns beat Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship game? Remember, Texas manhandled Alabama on the road back in September, one of the best wins anyone has all season. It’s almost impossible to envision a one-loss SEC team not reaching the playoff, but how can you possibly pick Alabama and not Texas?

Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe celebrates a win over Auburn on Nov. 25, 2023.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe celebrates a win over Auburn on Nov. 25, 2023.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

That would leave just one spot left for three teams: Undefeated Florida State, the Pac-12 champion and Georgia, the two-time defending national champion with just one loss.

If Georgia wins, it gets far less complicated, but it is worth wondering what happens to the Seminoles. Florida State was already dropped a spot in the playoff committee’s rankings after the season-ending leg injury to quarterback Jordan Travis, from fourth to fifth. Without him, the ACC power did not look the same, struggling to beat seven-loss Florida. However, would an undefeated power five school really get left out if Florida State gets by Louisville in the ACC title game?

We haven’t even gotten to the Pac-12 title game, where undefeated Washington meets Oregon in a rematch of the Huskies’ thrilling Oct. 14 victory. The Ducks have a loss, but they look like the best team in the country, second in the nation in scoring (45.3) and seventh in points allowed (17.9).

There are no easy answers. Someone will be very upset. And likely more than one team. The bottom line is it feels like six teams for three spots. So much is up in the air in the final year of the current version of the playoff. For years, I’ve complained that the conference championship games mean nothing. This season, they couldn’t possibly have any more importance.

Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (r.) tries to escape pressure during a win over Georgia Tech on Nov. 25, 2023.
Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (r.) tries to escape pressure during a win over Georgia Tech on Nov. 25, 2023.

Everything, I thought, was pointing toward Ohio State prevailing on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor. Boy was I wrong. Hats off to Michigan. To acting head coach Sherrone Moore, to quarterback J.J. McCarthy and all the Wolverines. They earned the Big Ten East crown and almost certainly a spot in the College Football Playoff by outlasting the rival Buckeyes.

Michigan had not played well in recent weeks, struggling in wins over Penn State and Maryland. Ohio State entered playing the better football. Jim Harbaugh’s absence on the sideline due to his three-game suspension for the Wolverines’ sign-stealing scandal seemed to be significantly impacting his team. On Saturday, that changed.

I love the game Moore coached, going for three fourth downs. He was aggressive and showed confidence in his team. It was exactly how Harbaugh would have coached. And now, he’s back, and maybe this time Michigan has what it takes to win it all. I sure am done doubting them.

Alabama is the cat with nine lives who won’t die. There is a Michael Myers element to the Crimson Tide. You can’t kill Nick Saban’s team. Saturday’s dramatic Iron Bowl victory, when Jalen Milroe threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Pond with 32 seconds left on fourth-and-goal to avoid a season-ending defeat, was just the latest example. This is a team that has been facing elimination every week since that Sept. 9 loss to Texas, that has three victories by six points or less, and has either trailed or been tied at halftime six times.

It will again be doubted next Saturday. Georgia is a 5.5-point favorite in the SEC championship game, the two-time defending national champion riding a 29-game winning streak. Alabama, though, wasn’t expected to get this far, not after how poorly it looked early on. After that remarkable escape in the final seconds on Saturday, on top of everything this group has been through, the Crimson Tide have to be thinking it can survive anything.


Source link