The last time Georgia played in the Rose Bowl in January of 1943, few Bulldogs fans made it out to the game because of post-Pearl Harbor, war-time travel restrictions. Seventy-five years later, safe to say nothing will prevent a Georgia takeover of Los Angeles, probably on the level of the thousands of Atlanta-area sports fans who descended on Chicago and South Bend, Ind., earlier this season.
The Bulldogs will play Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. What seemed obvious after the Bulldogs’ 28-7 win over Auburn in Saturday’s SEC title game was confirmed Sunday when the final college football playoff rankings came out.
And Alabama is on the playoffs as the No. 4 seed over Ohio State, so the SEC gets two teams in the playoffs. Surprising? Not really. Here are some quick thoughts on the selection committee’s rankings (as I get ready for the Falcons-Minnesota game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium; maybe I should’ve just slept in the pressbox last night).
• The committee got it right with Clemson at No. 1. The Tigers had a bad midseason loss to Syracuse but they were ranked No. 1 going into the week, torched Miami 38-3 in the ACC championship game and went 6-0 against ranked teams this season, including 14-6 over Auburn.
• There was an argument to put Georgia over Oklahoma at No. 2, given the Dogs avenged their only defeat to Auburn. But the Sooners’ resume is slightly better. They lost to Iowa State 38-31 but they have four quality wins over then-No. 2 Ohio State, Oklahoma State (11th), TCU (sixth) and then TCU 41-17 in the rematch in the Big 12 title game. It’s also worth noting that it didn’t matter whether Oklahoma was ranked ahead of Georgia because the two are playing each other anyway -- and there’s no home field advantage.
• Georgia is where it should be at No. 3. As stated, there was argument to put the Dogs second. There was an even an argument to put them first. But the lopsided loss at Auburn was correctly factored heavily into the decision. I like the matchup against Oklahoma because even though quarterback Baker Mayfield is the best player in the nation, Georgia matches up well physically and can control the game with its rushing attack. We’ll have plenty of time to break down the game but I like Georgia’s chances to win and advance to the championship game against either Clemson or ...
• Alabama! Get the feeling Clemson would’ve preferred playing Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl? Yeah. I Tweeted late Saturday night that while I personally leaned toward Ohio State as the deserving No. 4 team -- based on beating fourth-ranked and previously unbeaten Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game -- the Buckeyes probably needed a convincing win to swing the committee. I’ve long believed the committee was looking for any possible way to get a one-loss Alabama team in. Ohio State didn’t do enough Saturday to talk them out of it. A more convincing win than 27-21 might have led committee members to overlook the fact the Buckeyes were a two-loss team and lost by 31 points to Iowa (55-24) last month.
Alabama is 11-1, with the lone loss coming to Auburn. It does not have an overwhelming resume in terms of strength of schedule. But the Clemson-Alabama matchup in the Sugar Bowl will be great theater -- and, yes, the Crimson Tide is quite capable of winning because its defense will be healthier.
Early forecast: Georgia over Oklahoma; Clemson over Alabama.
National championship game: Georgia vs. Clemson in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It would be the Bulldogs’ third game in Atlanta this season after wins over Georgia Tech and Auburn.
I’ll hold off on a prediction for now.
About last night: Georgia is SEC champion again, thanks to defense and Kirby Smart