“Levels.”

Here’s a fun piece from David Hale, ranking this season’s playoff contenders by tiers.  He’s got Georgia in the top group, albeit with a caveat.

The wild card in the bunch is Georgia. While the Bulldogs don’t crack that 80% barrier and have made just one playoff appearance (2017), they also hold the fifth-best record of any Power 5 program during the playoff era (.783) and return a roster that screams “now or never” for Kirby Smart. QB JT Daniels appeared to have finally provided the missing piece in Georgia’s offensive attack, averaging better than 10 yards per attempt in three of his four starts — a mark UGA hadn’t hit against a Power 5 opponent since 2018. Add in the return of wide receiver George Pickens, a deep corps of running backs and a ferocious defense, and there’s a lot to like about Georgia in 2021. But beyond that, we’re believers that talent eventually wins out, and UGA will likely finish with a top-three recruiting class for the fifth straight year, giving the Bulldogs as talented a roster as there is in the country.

Nothing particularly thought provoking there, right?  What’s more interesting to me is his comment about Cincinnati, which he lists as a Tier 3 program (“Teams we’ll spend a lot of time making a case for who won’t actually make the playoff”).

The Bearcats finished the regular season undefeated in a COVID-19 year, but didn’t sniff the playoff. The reason was the conference. Never mind that the AAC was every bit as good as the ACC, which produced two playoff teams. There’s a stigma to playing outside the Power 5, and the committee has made it quite clear with its rankings of Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina in 2020 and UCF in years prior. But perhaps 2021 really is the year that stigma can be overcome — at least for Cincinnati. The Bearcats return star QB Desmond Ridder, have an exceptional defense, have the preseason pedigree that comes with nearly upending Georgia in the Peach Bowl and, most importantly, can actually prove something on the field in 2021 with road trips to both Indiana and Notre Dame. Think it can happen? We doubt it. The committee hasn’t shown a willingness to take a Group of 5 team seriously…

Maybe he’s right.  Do you think the selection committee keeps a 12-0 Cinci out of the CFP semis?  If the committee does, prepare yourself for another round of screaming for playoff expansion.

22 Comments

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22 responses to ““Levels.”

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    And Danny White will be their biggest advocate!

    What?
    Oh . . . . never mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Truth

    Going back to yesterday’s (Wednesday’s?) post about the final F+ ratings, the committee could have done us a big favor in 2020 about what should be done with these Cincy-like teams. If they’d used the top 4 in F+ in the F’d up 2020 season, BYU would have replaced ND and Bama would have won it all anyway. Clemson would have crushed BYU and we’d be spared all the talk about G5’s seat at the table.

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  3. The Truth

    Best part of that piece: UGA has more opponents in next to bottom Tier 9 than any other tier: Tech, Vandy, and USC East (is that a cannon shot I hear?)

    UAB, you ask? Ahead of those three in Tier 8.

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  4. Ran A

    Cincinnati – how many on their defense elected to return? Almost the entire starting group was Seniors. That, to me, will decide how good they are going to be. I was listening to a sports show on XM radio. The host was interviewing on of the sports babes out there. It was the week after the game. She said that she had just gotten off the phone with Fickel (I’m too lazy to check the spelling). He basically said the biggest difference between his team and Georgia was the LOS. (Interesting that Missouri’s coach gave the same answer).

    I think that will always be the challenge for non Power 5 teams when playing at top 10 (especially top 5) program. They can be really good in other areas and be really well coached and motivated like Cincinnati was. But that LOS will get you in these big games. In the 2nd half, Georgia’s defense just took over and that started by completely dominating at the point of attack.

    I don’t see that changing for any of these schools. There will always be a nice story and an argument that they should be in the Top 4 – truth – no they shouldn’t. If you move to 8 – give them the 7 or 8 spot, where in most years -they will get blown out of the building. (And I say this, completely agreeing that the AAC is likely better over-all than the ACC). Take Clemson and North Carolina and ‘maybe’ Miami, out of that conference and there isn’t much there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • munsonlarryfkajim

      Not just LOS, but depth in the trenches. Their 2nd string left tackle was a joke and allowed Ojulari to do bad things to their quarterback.

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      • Tony BarnFart

        I do think Cincinnati was a pretty good team, but against the top half of our league, 3 turnovers and a shanked punt gets us run off the field. That’s not to take away from their great defense that created those favorable situations, but a playoff worthy team puts that game away.

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      • poor guy. almost made me wish their guy didnt get ejected.

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      • bigjohnson1992

        We were very lucky to beat them, shoulda lost. I’ll take coaching up lesser talent over under coaching superior talent any day.

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  5. Maybe it was our defense, but I wasn’t that impressed with Ridder. He did a lot of complaining about getting hit, got run down by Jordan Davis and hit a few passes in the first half where his receivers made his stats look better than he really was.

    Fickell’s defense, OTOH, impressed the heck out of me. They played fundamentally sound and aggressively.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. NotMyCrossToBear

    I would think Cincinnati losing a bowl game to a team that didn’t play for its conference championship would reinforce the stigma. They went undefeated in the regular season and it happened. So I don’t give a shit if they run it next year as well.

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  7. rugbydawg79

    If they do manage to go undefeated again, with victories against Notre Dame and Indiana I imagine they will get a serious look.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I guess there’s a stigma about the Little League World Champions not playing in the Major Leagues. Or Continental League champs not playing in the NBA playoffs, or….you get the point.

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  9. Being objective, does the roster really scream that? Offensively, at the skill positions, certainly. Big questions on the OL, though. The defense is what really worries me and it’s not just the secondary. Anderson has made some nice plays but I’m not confident he’s really close to being as good as Ojulari. Tindall looked ok replacing Rice. The DL, Dean and Cine are the only guys I feel really good about atm.

    “Now or never” makes for an unfortunately familiar narrative for Georgia, though, it does have some truth considering that Kirby is going into year 6. Gotta finish stronger if we WV by to keep bringing in elite classes. I just hope the offense and staff are ready to mash the gas and not let off. To hell with playing down to teams or letting off.

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  10. MGW

    If the Georgia program had been transplanted into the PAC-12 or even the Big 12 since 2015, it’s inclusion in that top group wouldn’t require explanation. As it stands, we have to deal with Alabama most years, and if not them then some other program at a peak like LSU, in a quarterfinal if not also in the regular season before we can even begin to discuss a playoff berth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MGW

      Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma’s in-conference “contenders” right now would be, at best, the equivalent of a program like Florida or maybe Auburn. PRESENT DAY Florida or Auburn.

      And in those years where a contender in the West rises up and dethrones Bama… Bama generally gets an SEC championship bye week.

      All that to say we’re clearly in that top 5 tier, but we’re in a conference with Bama who has been, is, and will remain (for the foreseeable future) all alone in the true “Tier 1.”

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  11. practicaldawg

    I’m so sick of the “now or never” narrative. Is any other coach in the country held to that standard each year? Would Kirby be considered a better overall head coach if he recruited at a lower level and managed to steal a game he wasn’t supposed to win each year?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tony BarnFart

      Richt dealt with this too. Narrative: Georgia coaches are all mehh because that program is a top program [even a blind squirrel should win]. But Georgia isn’t a top program because they haven’t won since 1980. 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  12. ASEF

    College basketball ended up in a situation where the best jobs were the biggest fish in their ponds. VCU became a better job than Virginia Tech. Wichita State became a better job than Kansas State. And it left mid-tier P5 ADs in an endless cycle of churning coaches and buy outs, with small hope of becoming NCAA tournament regulars and an even fainter hope of ever breaking through as a program. Virginia pulled it off. Can’t think of anyone else.

    That experience acts as a bit of a drag on playoff expansion. And it directly explains the reluctance by the committee to put a Cincinatti or BYU into the playoffs. Once those jobs are seen as an easier path to a playoff berth than Michigan or Florida, then shit gets real.

    As much fun as it is to make fun of Tennessee, the stark reality is that UCF at the moment appears to be a superior job to the one in Knoxville or Lincoln. Ok, those are two proud programs in states where they have to pull a lot of players from out of state, without a whole lot to attract said players. And both have booster cultures that complicate the job enormously.

    But we’re still left with the fact that UCF right now a better job than Tennessee or Nebraska, two P5 programs with national championship trophies from the 90s. And that’s before altering the playoff format to a scenario where, if retrofitted, UCF and Cincinatti would be recent playoff participants.

    Frost is going to get canned at Nebraska. Satterfield and Louisville already hate each other. And so Fickell understands that he can only leave Cincinnati for a P5 Big Fish job.

    Georgia sits smack dab in the middle of the richest recruiting territory in the country, in a conference where the runner-up is always going to get strong consideration for an at-large in an 8 team playoff format.

    But I’d be curious to know how an AD at Miss St or Georgia Tech or South Carolina or Virginia sees playoff expansion. What sort of marginal revenue increases would their conference see from that? Versus how would it impact fan perceptions and expectations for their own program? And those are schools in conferences that have dominated college football, meaning they’re plausibly going to get multiple participants. P12 and B12 are not really in that mix. B1G, sort of in the middle.

    Anyway, interesting to think about..

    Liked by 2 people

    • miltondawg

      Good comment. I guess I had never really thought about the BYU or Cincy situation (or other G5 school) being the pandora’s box that the committee is reluctant to open. Imagine the hysteria in that scenario if, for example, you have someone like Geoff Collins leaving Georgia Tech to go to Cincinnati or Houston or UCF or some similar school because that G5 school has an AD willing to spend money, existing talent in an area where there is plenty of it (UCF in Florida or Cincinnati in Ohio), and the path to the playoff is easier than the one you left your job for to take a G5 job.

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