Leadoff: Why playoff committee gave edge to Georgia over Alabama

Good morning. This is LEADOFF, today’s early buzz in Atlanta sports.

Fifty-nine of the 61 voters in the Associated Press media poll this week ranked Alabama No. 1, as did 65 of 65 voters in the coaches’ poll. But the College Football Playoff selection committee disagreed with all of that, ranking Georgia No. 1. 

Shortly after the CFP’s initial rankings of the season were unveiled Tuesday night on ESPN, committee chairman Kirby Hocutt discussed the results with reporters on a conference call. He shed some light on the choice of Georgia over Alabama as -- at least for now -- No. 1. 

“The committee discussed at great length the strengths of Georgia and Alabama,” said Hocutt, who is Texas Tech’s athletic director. “While both teams are currently undefeated, the committee gave a slight edge to Georgia because of their win on the road against a very strong Notre Dame, which today we ranked as the No. 3 team in the nation.” 

After much debate, playoff committee ranks Georgia No. 1

In other words, Georgia’s one-point victory over Notre Dame carried more weight with the committee than the Bulldogs’  35-point win over Florida or 41-point win over Tennessee.

The committee has 13 members, including five former coaches and five current athletic directors. (One of the members, a former sports writer, was absent this week for a “health-related matter,” Hocutt said.) The committee debated the merits of Alabama vs. Georgia long and hard Monday and Tuesday. 

“We rank the teams based upon what has happened up to this point in the season,” Hocutt said. “It was passionate debate when we were discussing Georgia and Alabama over the course of the past two days -- some of the most passionate discussion that I've seen the selection committee have in my two-plus years being a part of this committee.

Road to AtlantaGeorgia’s three routes to the playoff

“Now, what gave Georgia a very slight edge over Alabama this week in the eyes of the selection committee were really the two top-25 wins that Georgia has over Mississippi State but specifically over No. 3 Notre Dame. So it was those two victories that really gave Georgia the ever-slight edge over Alabama this week.” 

Alabama’s 8-0 record includes no wins over teams currently ranked in the Top 25, but Hocutt indicated there was no consideration of dropping the Crimson Tide lower than No. 2. 

“Alabama is an impressive team,” he said, specifically citing strong play on defense and at quarterback. “I think just the convincing victories and the way they’ve achieved those solidified them at that No. 2 spot ahead of 3 through 7 this week.”

Read more on MyAJC.com about the playoff rankings:

Georgia makes its mark on the rankings

Jeff Schultz: The playoff could be an SEC party

Mark Bradley: Georgia is No. 1 in the ranking that (eventually) matters most

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