How the SEC could miss College Football Playoff: The scenario where Georgia, Alabama are out

Alabama and Georgia have been the two most successful programs of the College Football Playoff era. 

They have combined for five national championships in the last nine years and met twice in the CFP championship game. No. 1 Georgia (12-0) meets No. 8 Alabama (11-1) in the SEC championship game at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Saturday – another dream matchup between coaches Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. 

The winner likely will be the favorite to win the national championship. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has the easiest job in the world, right?

Well, yes, unless he has to politick for the SEC to get a College Football Playoff team. Yes, there is a scenario where the conference could be left out of the final four-team College Football Playoff. Let’s sketch that out. 

MORE: CFP scenarios, from chalk to chaos

How the SEC could miss the playoff in 2023

There are eight teams with one loss or less heading into conference championship weekend. Here is a look at those teams: 

RANK TEAM RECORD
1 Georgia 12-0
2 Michigan 12-0
3 Washington 12-0
4 Florida State 12-0
5 Oregon 11-1
6 Ohio State 11-1
7 Texas 11-1
8 Alabama 11-1

Now, let’s walk through the SEC Doomsday scenario. 

No. 3 Washington beats No. 5 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship 

That guarantees the Pac-12 has an unbeaten champion. The Huskies would be a lock to make the CFP. 

No. 2 Michigan beats No. 16 Iowa in the Big Ten championship 

That’s probably going to happen considering the Wolverines are 23-point favorites. Michigan is a lock.

No. 4 Florida State beats No. 14 Louisville in the ACC championship 

Will the committee really turn away an unbeaten Seminoles’ team, even with a backup quarterback? 

At that, there would be three unbeaten teams remaining. Now, the two most-important pieces: 

No. 7 Texas beats No. 18 Oklahoma State in Big 12 championship 

The Longhorns are Big 12 champions and have a 34-24 head-to-head victory against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

No. 8 Alabama beats No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship 

Now, all hell breaks loose. If all of that happens, then this is what the final College Football Playoff rankings could look like. 

MORE: Bowl projections | Championship games picks

What would SEC’s CFP argument be if Alabama, Texas both win?

Sankey and Saban would have to get creative, and they would, but how do you overcome Texas beating Alabama head to head?

Texas is one spot ahead of Alabama in ESPN’s Football Power Index. That might change if the Crimson Tide were able to beat the Bulldogs, and Alabama could point to ranked victories against LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee and the improved play of Jalen Milroe in the final month of the season. Style points will absolutely count for both teams in the final week.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian could simply return with that head-to-head victory at Alabama. The Longhorns scored 21-fourth quarter points and kneeled out the game in Crimson Tide territory. If the committee is not going to honor head-to-head results on the field, then what are we doing?

If it comes down to this, Texas will win the argument with Alabama. It might be a better strategy for the Crimson Tide to target Florida State – which despite an unbeaten record, will be playing with a backup quarterback against Louisville. 

MORE: What is Ohio State’s path to College Football Playoff?

Has the SEC ever missed the College Football Playoff? 

The SEC is the only conference to put a team in the College Football Playoff every year since its inception in 2014. 

Alabama has seven playoff appearances, six championship appearances and three national championships. Georgia has three playoff appearances, three championship game appearances and two national titles. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs met head-to-head in the CFP championship game in 2017-18 and 2021-22. LSU also won a national championship in its only CFP appearance in 2019-20.

What are odds Georgia, Alabama could both miss College Football Playoff? 

According to the ESPN Playoff Predictor, there is a 7% chance that this scenario unfolds. Oregon is a 9-5-point favorite against Washington, and the Ducks would be lumped into a one-loss argument if they win. In that scenario, the committee might leave Oregon out and put Alabama in based on the victory against the Bulldogs. 

Georgia also could end any of this simply by beating Alabama and increasing their win streak to 30 games. That would end this scenario before it starts. 

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