Georgia (9-0) and Alabama (9-0) are unbeaten and slotted first and second, respectively, in the College Football Playoff rankings. If they remain unbeaten entering the SEC Championship on Dec. 2 – and if they play a close, tightly contested game – could both teams make the playoff?
In a word, yes.
In two words, yes, absolutely.
“You have to remember there’s a bit of confusion still with what the committee is looking at and what they’re asked to try to do,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think that there are a lot of people that get confused with, if there’s a group of teams with similar resumes, they then look at head-to-head and are you a conference champion. Those are supposed to be things they use to separate teams that are very tightly clad, kind of in a bundle of similar resumes. But the committee’s challenge is to pick the best four teams, not necessarily the most deserving. The best four teams. However those 13 people evaluate ‘best,’ that’s what they’re supposed to do.”
In other words, being a conference champion does not guarantee a playoff spot. That’s not conjecture; that’s math.
“I think some people think, ‘Well, if you’re a conference champion, you should be in automatically,’” Herbstreit said. “Well, we have five Power Five conferences, so how can all the conference champions be in? You can’t. So someone’s already left out. And when you throw Notre Dame potentially in there, now you potentially have two of the Power Five conference champions left out.”
And potentially three if Georgia and Alabama are both undefeated and play a barnburner in Atlanta.
“(If) they play head-to-head and they go back and forth and it comes down to a last-second field goal and one of them wins and one of them loses, there’s a very strong possibility the committee would look at that and say, ‘Hey, we’re asked to give the best four teams,” Herbsteit said. “There is a possibility that (both teams could make it). Georgia’s got to be able to beat Auburn this weekend, and Alabama’s got to beat Auburn in a couple weeks. Both of those teams are playing Auburn on the road in Jordan-Hare. But yeah, it’s possible that the committee could put both of those teams in if that happened.”