Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A wipeout loss at Auburn drops Georgia to No. 5 in the MB rankings


The guess here is that Georgia will be No. 5 in Round 3 of the College Football Playoff rankings, to be revealed Tuesday night. That’s a significant fall from No. 1, but it’s not necessarily a Humpty Dumpty Moment. The opportunity remains for the Bulldogs to put their shining season together again. 

Here are the (slightly unofficial) MB rankings: 

1. Alabama 

2. Clemson 

3. Miami 

4. Oklahoma 

5. Georgia 

6. Auburn 

7. Wisconsin 

8. Ohio State 

I don’t see a way any team beyond those eight can make the playoff. Notre Dame has two losses and won’t grace a conference championship game. Central Florida could well go unbeaten, but the cancelation of its Georgia Tech game becomes a bigger deal with every week. (The only Power 5 team the Knights have played is 4-6 Maryland.) If TCU or Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma for the Big 12 title, both will still carry two losses – and, unlike the Sooners, neither has beaten anybody any good outside league play. With Washington losing to Stanford, the Pac-12 has no shot. 

Remember how we – meaning mostly me – wondered if the SEC could fit two teams in the final four? That might still happen. It might also happen for the ACC. Some folks believe Clemson is again the best team in the land, and Miami just stacked major victories back-to-back. Should the Hurricanes lose honorably to Clemson in Charlotte on Dec. 2, the ACC could have two one-loss teams, which would be a big deal given that only four unbeatens remain, and one of those is UCF. 

As weird as it sounds, two-loss Ohio State is in roughly the same shape as undefeated Wisconsin. Given the attrition around them, the Badgers now have a case for playoff inclusion if they win the Big Ten title. If the Buckeyes run the table, they’ll be 11-2 with victories over Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin. That might be enough. (We do know the committee tends to err on the side of The Ohio State University.) 

The only way the SEC gets two teams in is if Alabama stays unbeaten until losing to Georgia, which would mean Bama beating Auburn, which no longer seems a fait accompli. Using the ol’ Eyeball Test, the Tigers are playing better than Bama, which had trouble putting away LSU and trailed Mississippi State in the fourth quarter. If the SEC championship is an Auburn-Georgia rematch, only the winner would go. 

It’s silly to suggest that nothing changed for Georgia in losing 40-17 at Jordan-Hare. Something did. For the first time, we saw these Bulldogs come undone. But that was on the road against a very good opponent in as charged a setting as you’ll ever behold, and we’ve seen Clemson and Oklahoma and Ohio State unhorsed by much lesser opposition. The nice thing – sometimes the confounding thing – about the CFP rankings is that they don’t hew to cosmetic consistency. Week to week, the committee can do as it pleases. (In 2014, TCU won its final regular-season game 55-3 and dropped from No. 3 to No. 6.) 

Georgia won’t make it as a two-loss SEC non-champ. It will make it as a one-loss SEC champ, and it’s guaranteed to play somebody in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 2. (No offense to Georgia Tech folks, but I don’t see the Jackets beating the Bulldogs two days after Thanksgiving.) If Georgia can get to 12-1, it will grace a CFP semifinal. And I say again: If I’m the Bulldogs, I’d rather play Alabama. Auburn right now is flat-out scary.

Dept. of discouraging news: If you’re wondering, “Has any national champion in the CFP/BCS era ever lost by 23 points?” ... the answer is no. The most lopsided defeat by any champ from 1998 on is Ohio State’s 35-21 drubbing by Virginia Tech in 2014. There have been only two other double-figure losses by champs-to-be. One was LSU falling 19-7 at Florida in 2003. The other was Florida’s 27-17 defeat in 2006. That came at, er, Auburn.


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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.