ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart couldn’t find clarity in a process that failed to recognize his Bulldogs as one of the four best teams in the nation on Sunday.
But he did reach one conclusion most would agree with where the College Football Playoff Committee is concerned.
“I think every year it’s going to be different,” Smart said on the Sugar Bowl teleconference on Sunday, shortly after it was announced that No. 5-ranked Georgia (11-2) will play No. 15 Texas (9-4) in the New Orleans New Year’s Six Bowl.
“Do I have any clarity? I don’t think I have clarity.”
To Smart’s point, the mere fact that committee members change plays a role in how discussions will go. There were six new committee members added this year, including Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin and Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury.
Smart stated he believed the Bulldogs were one of the four best teams in the country after they battled No. 1-ranked Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, outplaying the Tide most of the night before falling 35-28.
The CFB Playoff Committee said it could not establish which one of the three teams it had vying for the fourth and final playoff spot — Georgia, Oklahoma or Ohio State — was the best.
So, committee chairman Rob Mullens said, “protocol” determined the Sooners the choice as a one-loss conference champ with an impressive offense.
Smart acknowledged the CFB Playoff Committee has a “tough decision-making process,” and he said on Sunday he understood the decision that was made.
“Doesn’t necessarily mean I have to agree with it, but I certainly respect the decision of the committee,” Smart said. “I was passionate about it last night because I really felt that way.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team made history with an SEC record average margin of victory of 35.2 points in league games, stated that he felt Georgia was one of the four best teams, too.
“I sure as hell don’t want to play them again,” Saban said after his team escaped with the win, despite turning the ball over twice and being outgained by Georgia. “They’re one of the four best teams in the country.”
Smart indicated he felt the Bulldogs’ two losses were the tipping point, even though Georgia played a significantly more difficult schedule than Oklahoma, which needed overtime to beat Army for one of its wins this season.
“I do think there’s going to be a two-loss team get in, (and) there was a lot of thought last year that, had Auburn beat us, they would have been the first to do it,” Smart said. “Now obviously they would have been conference champions, but I felt 100 percent that (Auburn) would have gotten in had they beaten us and that two-loss conversation probably would have been out of the way.
“But a two-loss non-champion is something they’ve never gone to, and I respect their decision.”
Alabama didn’t win the SEC Championship Game last season, finishing the 2017 regular season with an 11-1 record, just like Georgia did this season.
But the Tide actually benefitted by not playing in the league title game last year, essentially getting a bye, while UGA was punished by playing in the league title game, slipping from No. 4 in the rankings to No. 5 despite nearly beating the No. 1 team in the country.
Mullens said on Sunday that teams’ conferences were not considered a factor, and he continued to insist the committee was geared toward selecting the four best teams.
Smart, as he did after losing to Alabama 26-23 in overtime in the College Football Playoff Championship Game last January, has already moved on from the playoff snub.
“I’m not crying over spilt milk, we had our opportunities in the Alabama game and did not finish and did not take advantage of them,” Smart said. “I certainly think we’re one of the best four teams in the country, but I also know we’re not in the playoffs, and we’ll have an opportunity to do that next year.”