Georgia Bulldogs Are No. 1 In Season’s First College Football Playoff Rankings

Alabama is No. 2, Notre Dame No.3, And Clemson No. 4

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - by special report

For the first time in school history, Georgia has opened the College Football Playoff rankings in the No. 1 spot.

On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Committee put the Bulldogs at No. 1 in the rankings, just ahead of Alabama. Rounding out the top four teams in the country were Notre Dame at No. 3 and Clemson at No. 4.

The Bulldogs haven’t been ranked this high since 2008 when they opened the season at No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll. This was after then-sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford led the team to an 11-2 finish and Sugar Bowl victory in 2007.

It’s a sign of the quick progress the 8-0 Bulldogs have made under second-year coach Kirby Smart, but his stance this week is to check back in four and a half weeks for the final rankings that matter.

Those determine the four teams that will square off in semifinals leading to the national title game. 

Those knocking on the door include No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State.

Smart said Tuesday before the rankings were released that he wasn’t planning on watching it.

“No, I’m working on South Carolina,” he said of Saturday’s game in Athens. “I’m not going to watch it. I’m going to be up here until 11 (p.m.) watching tape of South Carolina.”

Alabama is ahead of Georgia in both the AP and coaches’ polls.

Kirby Hocutt, the selection committee chair and athletic director at Texas Tech, said members spent “considerable time” Monday “talking about the differences between Georgia and Alabama and there was “as passionate debate as I’ve seen,” Tuesday before the rankings were determined.

“At the end of the day two wins against CFP top 25 teams for Georgia, especially the win over No. 3 Notre Dame gave Georgia the “very slight edge” over Alabama this week,” Hocutt said.

Georgia also won 31-3 against Mississippi State, which is No. 14 in the playoff rankings.

Alabama does not have a win against a team the committee ranked in the top 25.

Smart is used to coaching on a team highly ranked in the playoff rankings and before that the BCS standing when he was defensive coordinator at Alabama.

“They talked about rat poison; a lot and things like that,” he said Monday with a laugh in reference to a term Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has used this year. “We don’t really have to address it if you confront it from the beginning, so the rankings that have been coming out up until this point — the AP ones — are the same thing.”

Georgia can boast perhaps the best win by any top contender — winning 20-19 at Notre Dame on Sept. 9.

Of the 12 teams in the initial playoff rankings each of the last three years, five made the playoffs.

In 2014, Mississippi State debuted at No. 1 but tumbled to No. 7 after losing twice. Florida State in 2014 and LSU in 2015 also missed out on the playoff after starting at No. 2.

Ohio State won the national title in 2014 after it was No. 16 in the first rankings.

Georgia’s previous high in the playoff rankings came in 2014 at No. 9, but it hasn’t been ranked the past two seasons at all when it went 9-3 in 2015 and 7-5 in 2016 in the regular season.

Georgia players say they aren’t focused on the postseason just yet.

“We’ve got five games left,” outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said, including the SEC championship game. “Those things can change every week, especially in the SEC. We’ve got a big game every week. That’s kind of the focus.”

 

If Georgia keeps winning, it could head to the Southeastern Conference Championship as the favorite regardless of who the Bulldogs play.

And with a December win in Atlanta, the Bulldogs would be a lock for the College Football Playoff.



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