Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

It's Georgia, Alabama on top, and college playoff could be an SEC party


There was a recurring skit in the old television show, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” known as, “The Argument Sketch,” in which people could walk into an office and pay for an argument.

There was a problem the first time cast member Michael Palin tried this because after buying five minutes of argument time, he inadvertently walked through the wrong door and an angry man yelled, “Don’t give me that, you snotty-faced heap of parrot droppings!” Palin had walked into the, “Abuse” room by accident.

The “Abuse” room is believed to be the roots of Twitter.

I bring this up now because we are approaching the peak of sports argument season. The first college playoff poll is out and this is how it looks at the top: 1) Georgia. 2) Alabama. Or: 1) SEC. 2) SEC.

"This is the chaos that everybody wants," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said.

Well, as a sports columnist, I'm with Herbstreit. I love chaos. I love storylines. I love debate. But I'm not sure most of the country would want two SEC teams in a four-team field because of personal biases, college bloodlines and My School U bedspreads.

Major college football is unique because the lack of a playoff system for decades naturally fed into debate about who's No. 1. A limited playoff system hasn't really changed that. People just argue about why their team didn't crack the top four and swap conspiracy theories about playoff committee members.

But the fact two of the four playoff teams potentially may come from the same conference will make the next five weeks the loudest and most obnoxious, snotty-faced-heap-of-parrot-droppings-filled ever.

If Georgia and Alabama win out and the two play a competitive game for the SEC championship -- and that's the betting favorite -- there's no strong argument for not putting both in the playoffs. The most common argument usually comes down to something as deep as this Tweet from former quarterback Danny Kanell, now searching for relevancy on sports talk radio: "I don’t want two teams from same conference in ever. That’s just dumb.”

You know what’s dumb? Not knowing the rules.

The playoff system is set up to bring the four best teams together. There’s not a mandate that the four be from different conferences. There’s not a mandate that the four be conference champions. There’s not a mandate that the four should be spread out over different geographic regions. There’s not a mandate that an undefeated team be taken over a one-loss team, or a one-loss team be taken over a two-loss team.

There’s not a mandate that anybody be taken from the Big 12. Thank ... the Lord.

The voting criteria for the rankings lists the following factors: performance on the field, conference championships, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents.

There's a lot of room for subjectivity. There has to be. There's 129 FBS football teams and none of them play the same schedule. Even teams in the same division within the same conference don't play the same schedule.

Coaches like Kirby Smart and Nick Saban hate chatter about the rankings because they know there's nothing to be gained by it. They know if their team keeps winning, everything takes care of itself. They know the games and not the votes will ultimately decide this. Smart knows Georgia still has to play Auburn, Georgia Tech and most likely Alabama in the SEC championship game. Saban knows Alabama still plays LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn and likely Georgia. Notre Dame, which seems to be the flavor of the week, still has road games at Miami and Stanford.

But if this plays out like many believe,  does anything suggest Georgia and Alabama are NOT two of the four best teams in the nation?

The Pac 12 is dead. (Washington is the highest ranked team at No. 12.)

The Big 12 is close to dead. (I don't see No. 5 Oklahoma moving up.)

Penn State lost in the Big Ten to Ohio State. Also, coach James Franklin called a timeout in the final seconds of a 56-0 win over Georgia State as the Panthers' kicker was getting ready to try a field goal, so he deserves to go to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl just on principle.

The Big Ten's  only unbeaten team, Wisconsin, is shaky and likely would lose in the conference title game to Ohio State, which  beat Penn State but lost by more than two touchdowns to Oklahoma. Oklahoma lost to Iowa State.

So explain to me how a one-loss Alabama or a one-loss Georgia team coming out of the SEC championship isn't better than a one-loss team from anywhere else?

The 1985 Final Four in men's basketball included three teams from the Big East: Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova. Memphis was the interloper. That worked out OK.

Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson are the top four teams today. I predict they'll be the top four teams when this is all over.

Smart doesn't want to talk about it: "The (AP) rankings that have been coming out to this point ... it’s just a distraction."

Saban doesn't want to talk about it: "What significance does the poll have right now?"

He's right. But debate is part of the fabric of college football, and it says here the playoffs could be an SEC party, regardless of the level of disdain it will cause in other regions. Looking for an argument? You've come to the right sport.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.