And now, as the Bulldogs head into their closing stretch of the season, they now have the best win in all of college football. And they can thank themselves and Notre Dame for that.
Problem for Georgia is that win is a two-edged sword. Yes, it’s a big deal for the Dawgs, but it’s also evidence for Notre Dame’s quality in light of the run Brian Kelly’s team has been on since that night. The media is starting to notice that in a big way and that way may have consequences none of us saw coming while we were celebrating the win in South Bend.
Selection committee, how’s it going?
I joked a little about this scenario last week, but as you can see, it’s inching its way slowly towards not being a laughing matter. It goes without saying that there’s still a lot of football left to be played, but what happens if both Notre Dame and Georgia run the rest of their regular season tables?
Notre Dame’s done both schools a favor with its decisive win over Southern Cal, as that’s likely crippled the Pac-12’s chances to make the CFP field for good. But that’s also opened the door for this kind of talk:
1. It’s time to take Notre Dame seriously as a CFP contender. Few, if any, were talking about the Irish this past summer as a Top 25 team — they weren’t even ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll. Now? After drubbing USC, Notre Dame is one of the hottest one-loss teams in the country with a legitimate chance to ultimately earn a top-four ranking from the selection committee. So far, Notre Dame’s only loss was by one point to SEC East favorite Georgia. While the Sept. 23 win at Michigan State continues to look good (the Spartans are still undefeated in league play), Notre Dame’s win over USC was its first true statement win of the season. Beating USC was the first step in what ESPN’s Football Power Index considers to be the 11th-toughest remaining schedule, as Notre Dame still has to face No. 14 NC State at home and go on the road to play No. 8 Miami and No. 20 Stanford. On Saturday, though, Notre Dame proved it’s a far different and better team than it was a year ago, and it has the potential to win out. If Notre Dame finishes 11-1 against what the FPI projects to be the No. 8 overall schedule in the country, it will have a great case for a top-four finish.
Note that there is no similar entry about Georgia’s chances. It’s not just FPI that’s swinging Notre Dame’s way. Sagarin ranks the Irish ahead of the Dawgs. And here’s Bill Connelly’s backhanded praise for Notre Dame:
Even their lone loss burnishes their bona fides. The Irish fell 20-19 to a Georgia that has otherwise beaten every other opponent by at least three touchdowns. They’re the only team to hold the Dawgs under 31 points, and they’re one of two to score more than 14.
At least Georgia’s got that going for it.
That being said, there are two complications facing the Dawgs. One, quite simply, is named Alabama. If the pupil does indeed face off against the teacher in Atlanta, it will be with the general expectation that he won’t be the one to carry the day. (The irony here that, if in fact Georgia does pull off the upset, a one-loss Alabama is still a lock to go to the semi-finals isn’t lost on me.)
If Georgia loses the SECCG, as most would expect, the second may be even more obvious. Mickey is already peeing in his pants in anticipation of the growing possibility that Notre Dame, the national program, makes the playoff field. If it’s a choice between the Irish and one-loss Georgia, that is going to be one tough narrative to overcome. For one thing, the “Notre Dame didn’t win a conference title game” argument goes straight in the trash under that scenario.
It’ll make for one helluva debate in any event, as Wolken acknowledges. It would likely wind up being the impetus for bringing the eight-team playoff into reality, Bill Hancock’s pious postulations notwithstanding. If the Dawgs aren’t invited, though, that’ll be small consolation for us. (Actually, for me, none at all.)
Bottom line here? Alabama looks like a lock. So does the eventual Big Ten champ. If you’re Georgia, either hope for a second ND loss — but not a bad one! — or a helluva lot of chaos descending on the ACC and the Big 12. Anything to make the selection committee’s job easier…
UPDATE: One thing to keep tucked in the back of your mind for now is that Georgia sits on top of the current CPI ratings (h/t). Again, the usual caveat about a lot of football left to be played applies.