ATHENS – In the end, the committee got it right. I know nobody who cares about the Georgia Bulldogs wants to hear that right now, but that’s the truth.

It is, after all, called the College Football Playoff. You play it off, on the field, and that applies to getting in as well as getting through.

I know conference champions aren’t supposed to be a consideration (they should be, but that’s a debate for another day). Competition and won-loss record most definitely are. The fact is, as well as Georgia played against Alabama, it didn’t win. So it has two losses, and it’s not a conference champion.

Does that mean the Bulldogs aren’t one of the top four teams in college football? Absolutely not. Based on how they’ve been playing at the end of the year – and from what we all saw in Saturday’s game in particular – Georgia most definitely is one of the top four, if not the top two or three.

I have no doubt if the Bulldogs had been placed in the playoff, they would’ve won any matchup not involving Alabama. Undoubtedly, they would’ve landed at 2 or 3, behind undefeated Clemson, and faced Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl semifinal in Dallas. That’s what would’ve happened if Georgia closes the deal Saturday. And I’m confident it wins that game and then faces Clemson or the Crimson Tide in the championship game.

Alas, the Bulldogs couldn’t close the deal. Coach Kirby Smart assured they wouldn’t win by trying a fake punt of astronomical odds on fourth-and-long in the deciding moments. There are some who will say it was a “gutsy” call, and it was. But there is a fine line between daring and reckless. And in the same moment he’s telling his team that he wants to win the game right there, he’s also telling his defense, “I don’t think you can stop Alabama and its backup quarterback.”

Such calls come with costs, and Georgia is paying for it today as it watches teams of lesser makeup live out its dream and opportunity. That’s the emotional tax that is being levied today.

But there is also some bright and sunny realities peaking over the horizon that will eventually overcome the darkness. One is that the Bulldogs continue to be ahead of schedule in Smart’s mission of making them into an elite and nationally-relevant football program. This year’s squad was built from a roster made up more than two-thirds of freshmen and sophomores. As Smart and his staff spread out on the recruiting trail Sunday, the Bulldogs are very much poised to reload in 2019, and beyond.

Secondly, it also delivers the message to Alabama and the rest of college football world that they are firmly entrenched among the elite and equal to one of the most powerful programs in history.

As Smart said after last year’s overtime loss to ‘Bama in the national championship game, “we ain’t going nowhere,” and Georgia’s not.

The Bulldogs are in a place now where some will complain about having to play Texas in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. That’s understandable, considering the height at which we now know the 2018 Georgia team was capable of flying.

It’s important that the Bulldogs not get caught up in what might have been and focus on what is. Georgia fans have long desired for another game against Texas. The old guard will recall the well-worn joke, what time is it in Texas? Still 10 to 9.

But it’s also important that the Bulldogs keep the momentum of a great season rolling into New Orleans. Dallas would’ve been great, and San Francisco would’ve been even better. But the takeaway from all we saw and heard in Atlanta this past weekend is there are lots of good times ahead for the Bulldog Nation.