Han Vance on the College Football Playoff: In 2017, I was easily the first media member to cover the Georgia to the CFP storyline and covered it thoroughly throughout the epic season, tracking potential angles, obstacles or impediments to the ultimate success of the program. This year – with the Dawgs’ schedule diminished significantly in strength – the path to the playoff appears clearer.
It is not easier, just clearer. I can only foresee UGA winning the SEC as a path for the (#2) Bulldogs, who are in contention with other Power 5 conference frontrunners as the leader in the SEC’s East division. Bama of the vaunted SEC West, Clemson of the neighboring, sprawling ACC, Ohio State of the overrated Big 10 (my preseason prognostication for eventual national champion looks a little better than I expected at this point, surviving a coaching/character scandal and suspension of brash Urban Meyer and throwing the ball better than ever in school history — I had picked Georgia in 2017 and am sticking with my pick for the national title in 2019…and 2020).
The AP and Coaches polls are all but thrown out after the College Football Playoff committee begins “ranking” teams: they slot teams in a numeric order, but fluctuate week-to-week on whim, the conversation of so-called experts in a room determines the playoff selections, and they have shown high inconsistencies and clearly play favorites. The most persuasive members of the CFP committee – those with the loudest mouths and most-winning personalities – have unfair advantage in shaping the outcome of the season, in the only sport that does not settle national championships on fields.
But, yes, I still fully adore college football even if the system is still straight garbage. The media remain way, way off base in thinking the drama that unfolds on paper, rather than the fields of dreams, is in any way good or fun for the fans. The system highly favors the fabled program over the little guy. Well, as in all sports, the little guy would often beat the fabled program on a neutral field and often has much greater real world qualifications. That’s the system.
The polls are only of interest, they are not even a tool used in evaluation (supposedly) by any member of the CFP committee. The CFP claims to (impossible considering human nature) reevaluate from scratch every program and every win or loss they have experienced, brand-new each week. Please don’t be stupid enough to see the current, ahem, “system” as anything other than a popularity contest favoring: Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State/Michigan, Clemson, Oklahoma/Texas and most notably Bama.
The new AP/Coaches polls show:
6-0 Bama 1/1
6-0 Georgia 2/2
5-1 LSU 13/12
5-1 Florida 14/18
5-1 Kentucky 18/20
4-2 Auburn 21/21
4-2 Texas A&M 22/22
These seven teams are still in (varying levels of) contention to win the great SEC.
Georgia to-date has beaten six teams, all not ranked by the polls:
Austin Peay 3-3, S. Carolina 3-2, MTSU 3-2, Mizzou 3-2, Tenn. 2-3, Vandy 3-3
The schedule toughens significantly for Georgia now with LSU, Florida, Kentucky, Auburn and a bye (before Florida) on the docket over five tough weeks.
The frontrunners for the CFP are down one with the upset win of Texas over Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown at the old Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. Notre Dame will make the playoff this year, it looks like, leaving only three slots for conference teams. ND remain independent, which hurts the rest of football by giving them an unfair advantage in not having to win a conference. The beloved media darling Irish play a tough schedule annually, getting Georgia in 2017 and 2019. They have escaped unscathed all of their seemingly losable games already in 2018, with USC their possible late threat.
That leaves Clemson with the easiest path in; they make the playoff every single year. They will win the ACC, again, quite probably, unless Mark Richt and Miami can spring an upset in the poorly-attended ACC championship game, at regular season’s end. I don’t see Ohio State losing any games in the regular season, and Wisconsin could maybe push them in the Big 10 championship game. So you see: Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame are my projected 2,3,4 in the CFP as of right now. I picked Ohio State and Clemson in the preseason and liked Oklahoma over ND for a third slot.
Hard to deny UCF, riding the nation’s longest winning streak, and on a collision course with undefeated USF again, forever. There must be a possible path to championships for all sporting programs.
West Virginia has a Heisman candidate QB and is still undefeated, as a geographic misfit in the (Southwestern) Big 12, which still does not have 12 teams but plays a championship game. If they win out, will they get locked out? Would that be fair or right?
The SEC was the first conference to win more than one CFP championship, also becoming the first league to, ahem, “qualify” two teams from the same conference. Georgia won the SEC, Bama finished second in the SEC West, both smashed at Auburn in the season. The Tide, pushed around by a superiorly-talented Georgia most of the game, won in overtime after Nick Saban inserted folk hero and Heisman frontrunner Tua at halftime to play quarterback, as Georgia inexplicably faded some. Tua is completing a would-be SEC record 75% of his passes this season, with Jake Fromm only a few percentage points behind. The record is currently held by Hutson Mason, my fellow alum from Lassiter High and UGA.
Bama would almost assuredly get the reputation-based benefit of the doubt if they qualify for the SEC championship game by winning the SEC West and lose a close game to Ol’ Georgia. They have won 5-of-9 national championships and have the proven best college coach of all time, claims (#2) Georgia can not come close to making at this early stage of the successful Kirby Smart (27-7) era. Georgia could quite conceivabley have to beat Alabama twice this year to reach nirvana. Georgia fans covet a natty!
I do feel Georgia could lose one game and still get in if winning the SEC, because the league is by far the strongest. The Dawgs will need to win in ATL to get in the college football playoff, again.