Georgia holds on to No. 1 in playoff rankings

8:16 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 Sports
Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Georgia coach Kirby Smart gives Brian Herrien a pat on the head after the Bulldogs beat South Carolina.  

Both Georgia and Alabama won their games last week – both at home, both over SEC opponents, both by 24-10 scores – to stay undefeated. That gave the College Football Playoff selection committee no reason to reconsider the top of its rankings. 

In the CFP’s second rankings of the season, released Tuesday night, Georgia remained No. 1 and Alabama No. 2 after their wins over South Carolina and LSU, respectively. 

The top two teams will face ranked opponents on the road Saturday, with Georgia playing at No. 10 Auburn and Alabama at No. 16 Mississippi State. 

The rest of the selection committee’s top five also remained unchanged from last week, with one-loss teams Notre Dame, Clemson and Oklahoma still ranked Nos. 3, 4 and 5, respectively. There was movement just behind the top five, however, with one-loss TCU climbing to No. 6, undefeated Miami to No. 7 and undefeated Wisconsin to No. 8. 

The committee offered the same rationale as last week for ranking Georgia ahead of Alabama: the Bulldogs’ tougher schedule to this point. Georgia has two wins over opponents currently ranked in the committee’s Top 25 (Notre Dame and Mississippi State), while Alabama has one such win (No. 24 LSU).

“We spent time on No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama -- (it was) a good test for Georgia against South Carolina, probably a little better test for Alabama against LSU,” Kirby Hocutt, chairman of the selection committee, said on the ESPN show that unveiled the new rankings Tuesday night.

“I would say the margin of separation continues to be close,” Hocutt said. “I would say the difference goes to Georgia because of the win at Notre Dame.  That is a big difference to the selection committee between Georgia and Alabama at this time.”

The committee continues to rank those teams in a different order than the traditional polls do. The Associated Press and coaches’ polls have had Alabama No. 1 all season, and this week 56 of 61 AP voters and 64 of 65 coaches gave first-place votes to the Crimson Tide. Georgia is No. 2 in both of those polls. 

The selection committee’s rankings ultimately decide which teams reach the four-team playoff. 

The 13-member committee will re-rank teams each week through Dec. 3, when it will place the top four in the national semifinals, which this season will be played in the Rose and Sugar bowls on New Year’s Day. The semifinal winners will meet for the national championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 8. 

The order of Georgia and Alabama doesn’t mean much at this point because the teams could meet in the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 2. Georgia already has clinched a berth in that game as the SEC East champion. Alabama leads the West division by one game over Auburn and has two SEC games remaining, including Nov. 25 at Auburn.

Auburn is the CFP’s highest-ranked two-loss team this week, climbing to No. 10 from last week’s No. 14.

Miami, which is one of four undefeated power-conference teams, made a notable jump in the rankings, moving up three spots from last week to No. 7 after beating Virginia Tech.

“I’m thankful to be seventh,” Miami coach Mark Richt said on ESPN.  “If we win, we’ll move up. I said that last week when we were 10, and we won and moved up. It’s pretty simple.”

Miami hosts Notre Dame on Saturday.

Ohio State and Penn State, which were ranked Nos. 6 and 7 last week, plunged to Nos. 13 and 14 after losing to Iowa and Michigan State, respectively. Michigan State soared from No. 24 last week to No. 12 this week.

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