ATLANTA — As the college football season reaches its crescendo weekend, the college football-loving world cries out:
Where’s the chaos? Where’s the lunacy? Where’s the chips and salsa; it’s Championship Saturday and I’ve got games to watch!
Truth is, there have been more surprises, more upsets than we give 2018 credit for. But the 800-pound elephant in the room just quashes the narrative, the furniture and every opponent in its path.
For the most part, Alabama has made this season about as exciting as mailing a letter. Twelve games for the Tide, 12 thrashings, no one coming closer than 22 points (Texas A&M, a 45-23 loser in September, thanks to a 7-0 fourth quarter when Nick Saban was letting the sixth-stringers play).
Bama may go down as the most dominant college football team ever. How dominant? Georgia — the 11-1, No. 4-ranked Bulldogs — is a 12½-point underdog in the SEC Championship Game, which kicks off at 3 p.m. Saturday on CBS.
So let’s get real. Alabama is in the playoff regardless of what happens. So is No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0), which is done playing until Dec. 29. And No. 2 Clemson (12-0) just isn’t coughing up the ACC title to Pittsburgh.
Unless the Bulldogs start ad-libbing the script to some shocking degree, Georgia is going to head back down to the Sugar Bowl as the SEC’s top-available team for the first time in 11 years.
But should it? You can make a compelling case that even an 11-2 Bulldogs team — provided it doesn’t get its fur singed off by Bama, by 31 points or something — is still the most worthy No. 4 out there.
“I don't know what will happen,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said Friday. “If Alabama wins, obviously, they've been in a position so long that they're going to remain in that position, one would assume.
"But I actually still think there's an argument that Georgia is still one of the four best teams, even with two losses, when I go back to that unique rigor of our schedule. And I know that the committee has indicated deep respect for the competition in this conference. They still merit consideration.”
You can brush off Sankey’s comments as Chamber of Commerce-like hyperbole. But when you study it, he has an arguable point.
As the CFP race comes to a boil, three 11-1 teams are contenders for the No. 4 slot: Georgia, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State.
No. 7 UCF may be 12-0, but even if it survives Memphis in the AAC final Saturday without injured superstar quarterback McKenzie Milton, the Knights are not crashing the party.
Check out the current résumés, based on ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) and strength of schedule (SOS):
• Georgia: FPI No. 3, SOS No. 25
• Oklahoma: FPI No. 5, SOS No. 34
• Ohio State: FPI No. 6, SOS No. 48
Yes, by the end of Saturday night Georgia will likely be 11-2, while Oklahoma and Ohio State will both be 12-1 if they knock off Texas and Northwestern in the Big 12 and Big Ten championship games, respectively.
But no matter whether Oklahoma beats Texas or by how much, the Sooners have proven themselves to be just half a team. To call OU’s defense leaky would be an affront to leaky things. And Ohio State? It got drilled by 29 points at Purdue and was one wide-open 2-point pass away from losing at Maryland.
What would be Georgia’s crimes? A loss at No. 10 LSU, albeit by a 36-16 count, and a loss to No. 1 Alabama, maybe the best college football team ever to skip a class.
An 11-2 Georgia in the playoff is fraught with issues, all right, but few of them on the field, most of them optics. First off, if still No. 4, it would have to play No. 1 Alabama again. Not an appealing rematch under any circumstance other than Georgia winning Saturday.
And the playoffs would consist of two SEC teams, Notre Dame and only one other conference champion (Clemson, we assume), while three other leagues (Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12) are left to console each other around an upright piano pecking out sad versions of their alma maters.
The rest of college football has had enough of the SEC already. Two SEC teams in the playoff again would send most non-SEC folk over the edge.
Of course, the clatter would immediately arise for the CFP to expand to six or eight teams. It’s a similar scenario to the 2012 BCS title game between LSU and Alabama, which helped give rise to the CFP in the first place.
If you want playoff expansion, you want the brand of chaos Georgia can provide, win or lose, Sunday.
You want the Bulldogs in that playoff. You need the Bulldogs in that playoff.