Could Alabama reach CFP with loss to Ge­or­gia?

Peach Bowl pres­i­dent thinks it is pos­si­ble


AT­LANTA — The Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off se­lec­tion com­mit­tee showed its high re­gard for Alabama in two ways this week: by again rank­ing the Crim­son Tide No. 1 and by drop­ping LSU only four spots to No. 7 de­spite a 29-0 loss at home to Bama.

Such re­spect for the de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion in­spires this ques­tion: Could Alabama make the four-team play­off even if it loses to un­der­dog Ge­or­gia in the SEC Cham­pi­onship game at Mer­cedes-Benz Sta­dium on Dec. 1?

“It looks like there could be a way,” said Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl pres­i­dent Gary Stokan, a close ob­server of the play­off se­lec­tion process.

“In that case, you could get two SEC teams in the play­off, Ge­or­gia and Alabama,” Stokan said. “And if you had two SEC teams, plus (cur­rent No. 2-ranked) Clem­son and (No. 3) Notre Dame, you’d be leav­ing three con­fer­ences — the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac12 — out of the play­off, which would re­ally be an in­ter­est­ing sight.”

And a con­tro­versy for the ages would sweep across three con­fer­ences.

First things first: A pre­req­ui­site to put that sce­nario in play would be for Alabama and Ge­or­gia to win their three re­main­ing reg­u­lar-sea­son games.

If that hap­pens, and if Ge­or­gia then se­cures a play­off spot by up­set­ting Alabama in a close game, Stokan thinks a one-loss SEC run­ner-up Alabama could be cho­sen for the play­off ahead of a one-loss Big Ten champ Michi­gan (this week’s No. 4-ranked team) based on the Crim­son Tide’s sea­son-long dom­i­nance on of­fense and de­fense.

Or maybe not. Faced with a choice be­tween two one-loss teams, the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee could well set­tle on a con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship as the de­cid­ing fac­tor.

For its part, the com­mit­tee doesn’t pon­tif­i­cate, pub­licly or pri­vately, about what-ifs, of which there are many.

“We don’t project,” said com­mit­tee chair­man Rob Mul­lens, the ath­letic di­rec­tor at Ore­gon. “We are laser-fo­cused on only do­ing our work through the re­sults to date. We don’t look ahead.”

Alabama reached the play­off in each of the event’s first four sea­sons — three times as SEC cham­pion and last sea­son de­spite not reach­ing the SEC Cham­pi­onship game. A one-loss Alabama team got the fi­nal play­off berth over Big Ten cham­pion Ohio State last sea­son, but the Buck­eyes had two losses at the time.

Ge­or­gia is ranked No. 5 this week, one spot be­hind Michi­gan, and is widely ex­pected to move into the top four if it sweeps its fi­nal three reg­u­larsea­son games (Auburn, UMass, Ge­or­gia Tech) and beats Alabama.

“Ge­or­gia does con­trol its own destiny,” Stokan said.

Play­off movers?

On pa­per, this week’s sched­ule pales in com­par­i­son to last week’s. But, within th­ese matchups, maybe at least one up­set lurks some­where that could af­fect the play­off pic­ture:

No. 1 Alabama (9-0) at home vs. No. 16 Mis­sis­sippi State (6-3); No. 2 Clem­son (9-0) at No. 17 Bos­ton Col­lege (72); No. 3 Notre Dame (9-0) at home vs. Florida State (4-5); No. 5 Ge­or­gia (8-1) at home vs. Auburn (6-3); No. 6 Ok­la­homa (8-1) at home vs. Ok­la­homa State (5-4); No. 8 Wash­ing­ton State (81) at Colorado (5-4); No. 9 West Vir­ginia (7-1) at home vs. TCU (4-5); No. 10 Ohio State (8-1) at No. 18 Michi­gan State (6-3).

There’s a dou­ble-digit fa­vorite, though, in all of those games ex­cept Ohio State-Michi­gan State (Buck­eyes fa­vored by 3 1/2) and Wash­ing­ton State-Colorado (Cougars by 6 1/2).

If the sea­son ended now ...

If the CFP rank­ings re­main the same on Se­lec­tion Day, Dec. 2, as they stand to­day, the play­off semi­fi­nals would pit Alabama vs. Michi­gan and Clem­son vs. Notre Dame. The semis will be played in the Cot­ton and Or­ange bowls.

The matchups for four other bowl games also will be set by the CFP com­mit­tee, al­though those bowls aren’t part of the play­off this sea­son.

Based solely on cur­rent rank­ings and bowl con­tracts, Stokan pro­jected those bowl matchups would line up this way if the sea­son were over now: Wash­ing­ton State vs. Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, Ge­or­gia vs. Ok­la­homa in the Sugar Bowl (which would be a re­match of last year’s CFP semi­fi­nal Rose Bowl that the Bull­dogs won in dou­ble over­time), LSU vs. West Vir­ginia in the Peach Bowl and Ken­tucky vs. Cen­tral Florida in the Fi­esta Bowl. Al­most all of those teams, though, still have play­off as­pi­ra­tions.

Getty Images

Quar­ter­back Tua Tago­v­ailoa and Alabama could reach the four-team Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off if it loses to Ge­or­gia in the SEC Cham­pi­onship game.

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