ATHENS — CFP executive director Bill Hancock served up a key reminder on Tuesday night when it comes to the operative word for selecting the four-team playoff field.
Indeed, there has always been some level of debate between “most deserving” teams versus “best teams.”
Hancock left no doubt when asked to clarify by DawgNation on the CFP’s Tuesday night teleconference.
“It is (four) best,” Hancock said. “Most deserving is not anything in the committee’s lexicon. They are to rank the best teams in order, that’s what they do — just keep that word in mind, ‘best’ teams.”
Semantics are everything when trying to sort out the CFP’s thought process — and possibly even project — how the field will be ranked after the various league championship games.
Coach Kirby Smart knows the only way the Bulldogs can assure themselves a spot win the CFP is to beat Alabama in the 4 p.m. SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Saturday.
But Hancock’s clarification opens the door for speculation that, even with a loss to Alabama, Georgia might still qualify as being one of the four “best” teams depending on how the rest of the games play out.
As things stand, it seems eight teams remain in contention for the four-team CFP field:
1. Georgia (12-0)
2. Michigan (12-0)
3. Washington (12-0)
4. Florida State (12-0)
5. Oregon (11-1)
6. Ohio State (11-1)
7. Texas (11-1)
8. Alabama (11-1)
Some key takeaways from the Tuesday night teleconference:
Shaky Florida State?
CFP chairman Boo Corrigan referred to Florida State as a “different team” without its injured star quarterback.
This fuels speculation that it’s possible — though perhaps not likely — that an undefeated Florida State could be left out of the four-team playoff.
“They’re a different team, it’s pretty obvious, with Jordan Travis not playing and Tate Rodemaker playing they’re a different team, just as anyone would be if they lost their quarterback in that situation.”
It’s worth noting Florida State beat a Florida team that had lost its starting quarterback by a 24-13 count, while Georgia beat the Gators 43-20 earlier this season.
Texas trumps Alabama
Texas went into Tuscaloosa and beat the Crimson Tide 34-24 in the second week of the season, and that has kept Alabama pinned behind the Longhorns in the CFP standings even as Nick Saban’s team appears to be playing better.
Corrigan said once again on Tuesday night that “Head-to-head is head-to-head, no matter when the game is played, and that’s how we look at it.”
It’s possible beating No. 1 Georgia could vault the Tide over the Longhorns in the CFP standings — even if Texas (-13) beats Oklahoma State as expected in the Big 12 title game. But the sense here is Alabama who have to win impressively to move up in the pecking order.
Pac-12 winner in
The CFP Committee seemed to send a message that the winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game between unbeaten Washington and one-loss Oregon will make the four-team playoff field when the Ducks surfaced at No. 5 — the highest one-loss team in the field.
Ohio State media pressed Corrigan on the Buckeyes falling to No. 6 despite a very close road loss to No. 2 Michigan.
“You’re not looking specifically at one team as much as you are a drop of teams and the teams around them and what did they do this past week,” Corrigan said. “Specifically Oregon continues to impress, the win over Oregon State, holding a team to 7 points that’s averaging 34 points.”
The race for No. 4 if chalk holds
If the favorites prevail in the league title games:
• Georgia (-5) beats Alabama
• Michigan (-22) beats Iowa
• Florida State (-4) beats Louisville
• Oregon (-8) beats Washington
It would seem those four winners would be in, and that would leave a one-loss Texas and one-loss Ohio State on the outside looking in.
But if Alabama upsets Georgia, things get messy, as Texas gets brought into the equation because of its head-to-head win over the Tide earlier this season.
Theoretically, there’s a chance the SEC could be without a team in the Four-Team Playoff if Alabama upsets the Bulldogs and all the favorites currently ranked ahead of the Tide win their games.
A team ranked No. 8 heading into the final week of league championships has never made the four-team field, prompting the question if there is a path for Alabama to make the four team field.
“Conference championships and head-to-heads and everything that we look at per the protocol will be in full effect of what we’re doing,” Corrigan said.
Hancock, however, pointed out earlier in the call that nothing is off the table.
“Those tiebreaker criteria (head to heads, conference titles, more recent games) are not prioritized,” Hancock said. “So it’ll be up to the judgment of each committee member which of the tiebreakers are more important to him or her.”
ESPN Playoff Predictor takeaways
• Georgia has a 52 percent chance of beating Alabama and a 56 percent chance of making the four-team CFP field.
• If Georgia loses to Alabama, the ESPN playoff predictor suggests for the Bulldogs to still make the CFP they would need Florida State and Texas to also lose.
That scenario would give UGA a 46-percent chance of getting in as the fourth team — the exact same odds as Ohio State.