ATHENS – It may not matter much in the end. In the present, it’s a snapshot, and in the end, it will be a footnote. That doesn’t mean the Georgia football team (and fans) can’t revel in the first rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Georgia, a program that had never appeared in the top four, or even the top eight, in the three previous seasons the official playoff rankings have been revealed, shot to the top in the initial rankings of 2017.
Georgia (8-0) came in at No. 1.
The initial playoff poll always has been inexact in predicting how it will finish. Two out of the four teams eventually made the playoff last year and in 2015. The top-ranked team has made it the last two years – Mississippi State didn’t in 2014 – but the No. 1 team in the first poll has never won the championship.
So caution is necessary. At minimum, it at least again shows what an extraordinary season the Bulldogs are having.
Georgia had appeared in the CFB top 25 just seven times since the playoff began, according to Kellerratings.com. Five teams had appeared every time: Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Utah.
The highest Georgia had ever been ranked in the CFB was No. 9 — during the 2014 season.
On Monday, head coach Kirby Smart shrugged off the importance of the first rankings, saying, “It just matters how we finish.”
His players got the memo, too.
“We’re not worried about that right now,” senior linebacker Reggie Carter said. “That’ll handle itself.”
Indeed, there are four regular-season games left, and the SEC Championship Game if Georgia wins the East Division, which it is heavily favored to do. It seems clear that if Georgia wins the SEC title as either an unbeaten or one-loss team, it will make the playoffs. Where the playoff rankings matter is if Georgia goes unbeaten but then loses to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and has to put its one-loss record against the resume of other one-loss teams, including conference champions.
The selection committee includes former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, who must recuse himself when Georgia is mentioned. His son Shane Beamer is Georgia’s special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.
There are 13 members overall, although one did not participate this week: Former USA Today sportswriter Steve Weiberg had a prior engagement.
The chairman of the committee is Texas Tech athletics director Kirby Holcutt. Besides Beamer there are four other former head coaches on the committee: Tyrone Willingham (known mostly for stints at Notre Dame and Stanford), Bobby Johnson (formerly Vanderbilt’s coach), Jeff Bower (who was at Southern Miss), and Herb Deromedi (Central Michigan).
The rest are administrators: Arkansas A.D. Jeff Long, Clemson A.D. Dan Radakovich, Ohio State A.D. Gene Smith, Oregon A.D. Rob Mullen, Robert Morris president Chris Howard, and former NCAA V.P. Tom Jernstedt.