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Curtis Compton / AJC
Georgia's defense is playing at a championship level, and its dominance played a role in Tuesday night's CFP rankings.

College Football Playoff Committee chair: Georgia’s two top 15 wins ‘separator’ in rankings

ATHENS — Georgia didn’t get the respect Kirby Smart felt it deserved in last year’s College Football Playoff race, but the Bulldogs got off to a strong start in Tuesday night’s rankings.

Committee chairman Rob Mullens pointed to Georgia’s impressive wins over Notre Dame and Florida as the major factor for No. 6-ranked Georgia being the top-ranked one-loss team in the first CFP Rankings.

“Georgia has beaten two top 15 teams, No. 10 Florida, No. 15 Notre Dame,” Mullens said, asked by DawgNation on Tuesday night’s national teleconference about the Bulldogs place in the order of one-loss teams.

“They are the only FBS team to not give up a rushing touchdown, which is a pretty strong statement. They have an experienced quarterback, and elite running back,” he said. “But the separator for them at this point was the two Top 15 wins.”

Those Georgia wins, 23-17 over the Irish and 24-17 over the Gators, were two of the most-watched college football games of the season.

 

 

The Bulldogs rank No. 1 in the SEC in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense, and are No. 2 in pass efficiency defense.

Smart said earlier on Tuesday night he’s too busy preparing for UGA’s game with Missouri (7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN) to pay any attention to the rankings.

I don’t have any idea and don’t care,” Smart said. “Everyone knows it doesn’t matter. What matters is how we play against Missouri. That’s the only thing we can control.”

Smart expressed frustration last year when Georgia was left out, pointing out the CFP Committee can change the priorities it places on the variables from one year to the next.

“Every year it’s going to be different,” Smart said of the criteria the committee applies behind closed doors, the votes kept private. “Do I have clarity? I don’t think I have clarity.”

Indeed, being a conference champion didn’t matter in 2017, but being a conference champion did matter in 2018.

Former SEC commissioner and BCS founder Roy Kramer expressed some concerns with the process in an exclusive interview with DawgNation this summer.

RELATED: Roy Kramer speaks on CFP issues, competitive quandary

Mullens explained last year that, because the committee could not determine the fourth best team, it resorted back to protocol.

“What we decided was amongst the group of three, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State, the committee voted that no one was unequivocally better than the other,” Mullens said last December. “So then we leaned on the protocol. So we went with the one-loss conference champion.”

ESPN analysts Kirk Herbstreit concluded the CFP Committee allowed politics to cloud the selection process, and that Georgia was one of the four best last year.

Georgia will likely need to win out in the regular season and win the SEC Championship to return to the College Football Playoffs.

A two-loss team has yet to make the four-team field

The CFP Committee will release four more sets of rankings on each Tuesday night before the final rankings come out on Dec. 8.

Mullens, the athletic director at Oregon, explained the top five teams in the rankings.

“Ohio State is No. 1 because of their overall consistent dominant play each week as well as their strength on offense and defense,” Mullens said. “Undefeated LSU is No. 2 because of its tough schedule and marquee wins over Florida and Auburn. Alabama is No. 3 because committee members are impressed with its overall performance and quality of play on both sides of the ball.

“Penn State is No. 4 because of its strong play, which includes wins over Michigan and Iowa. Penn State’s strength of schedule gave it an edge over an impressive Clemson, which we ranked No. 5.”