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Jake Fromm takes a sack against South Carolina.

Why Georgia football does and doesn’t have to worry about South Carolina loss as College Football Playoff race heats up

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The reasons Georgia football does and doesn’t have to worry about the South Carolina loss as College Football Playoff race heats up

For the third straight week, the College Football Playoff committee released its rankings of the top teams in college football. And each time the committee has made their decision public, the Georgia Bulldogs have come in as the top-ranked one-loss team in the country.

The Bulldogs debuted at No. 6 in the initial rankings, fresh off a win over now No. 11 Florida. The Bulldogs then moved up to the No. 4 spot last week following Alabama’s loss to No. 1 LSU. The Bulldogs remained in that No. 4 spot even after beating No. 15 Auburn this past weekend.

Related: College Football Playoff rankings updated after Georgia’s win over Auburn

Georgia has done all of that despite having by far the worst defeat of any team ranked in the top-10, as the Bulldogs lost 20-17 at home to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are 4-7 on the season and have a game against No. 3 Clemson remaining.

For weeks now, those who have opposed or questioned Georgia’s high ranking point to this fact first. How could a team that is supposed to be so good lose to a team that has double-digit defeats to Tennessee and Missouri? Surely a team like Oregon or Alabama — pre-Tua Tagovailoa injury — would have a better chance against the truly elite teams.

To that point, the committee has consistently trotted out how impressive Georgia’s wins are. The Bulldogs have three wins against teams currently ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings. Alabama, Clemson and Oregon have a combined one win against teams in the Top 25.

Those wins are why the Bulldogs are one of four teams — along with LSU, Ohio State and Clemson — that control their own playoff destiny. Sure a one-loss Big Ten champ Minnesota or a one-loss Pac 12 winner would make things tougher on the committee. But if Georgia wakes up on the morning of Dec. 8 with the South Carolina game as the only defeat on its resume, that would mean the Bulldogs would’ve added a win against the No. 1 ranked LSU Tigers.

In that scenario, it’s certainly plausible to see how Georgia jumps up into the No. 3 spot, ahead of LSU.

RelatedEven after winning third-straight SEC East, Georgia football knows it isn’t done yet

But this is where that defeat against South Carolina really comes into focus. Because as the committee showed on Tuesday, no matter how good Georgia’s wins are, they aren’t going to be enough to propel them over an unbeaten team. That shows that there is a ceiling on how high Georgia can climb.

If there were ever going to be a week for Georgia jump Clemson in the rankings, it would’ve been this week. Clemson does not have a win against a team ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings. That might not change from now until the Tigers get into the College Football Playoff.

Clemson had a game against North Carolina earlier this season that was similar to that of Georgia’s game against South Carolina. But the Tigers were able to do enough to win that day.

In the games since the near defeat, Clemson has also looked like the team that cruised to the national title in 2018. Since the one-point win over the Tar Heels, the smallest margin of victory for Clemson has been 35 points. Georiga conversely has at times still looked like the team that lost to the Gamecocks. In the fourth quarter of the Auburn, Georgia gained just 2 yards of offense.

The significance of staying behind Clemson means two things. The first is that barring complete chaos, Georgia likely won’t be playing its College Football Playoff game in Atlanta, but rather in Glendale, Ariz. Playing a College Football Playoff game in the same state would’ve given the Bulldogs an advantage, which would’ve been huge in a game where the margins are as small as a grain of rice.

This also means that Georgia is likely going to have to play one of either Clemson, Ohio State or LSU in that first playoff game. Those three teams are clearly a cut above everyone else, including the Bulldogs. Given that Georgia would have to beat LSU just to get the College Football Playoff, there’s a real possibility Georgia would have to beat all three teams to win the national championship.

The South Carolina loss isn’t going to keep Georgia out of the College Football Playoff. And through those Florida, Notre Dame and Auburn results, Georgia has shown it can win big games.

But what the South Carolina defeat does do is make Georgia’s final possible games that much more difficult, if Georgia can even get to that point.

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