ATLANTA — As No. 1 Georgia prepares to play No. 8 Alabama in Saturday’s SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the thought of his league being left out of the four-team College Football Playoff isn’t the “real world.”
Some analysts have argued that if Alabama upsets Georgia on Saturday, both teams could be left out of the CFP, depending on what happens in other conference championship games.
Sankey, in an interview on ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday, said a case could be made that both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide deserve to be in the playoff.
“That’s not the real world of college football,” Sankey said. “Let’s go back to like ‘Sesame Street’ so we’re really basic — one of these things is not like the other, and that’s the Southeastern Conference.
“We have five of the top 15 [in the CFP rankings], so a third, and our teams are playing everyone in the conference. … The reality is there has been no one that’s experienced the success in the postseason in the College Football Playoff that we have. So when you put us up actually against the teams, rather than in the committee rooms, we stand alone. And we stand alone this year, regardless of today’s outcome.”
Two-time defending national champion Georgia, which has won 29 consecutive games, would undoubtedly secure a spot in the playoff and probably be the No. 1 seed for the second straight year if it beats the Crimson Tide. But if Alabama wins, the Bulldogs might drop out of the top four altogether, depending on what happens in Saturday’s other conference title games.
No. 2 Michigan can also finish unbeaten by defeating No. 16 Iowa in Saturday night’s Big Ten championship game (8 p.m. ET, Fox). No. 4 Florida State would have an unblemished record as well by knocking off No. 14 Louisville in the ACC title game (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App). The Seminoles are playing without injured star quarterback Jordan Travis and might not have backup Tate Rodemaker available because of a concussion.
No. 7 Texas, which upset Alabama 34-24 on the road Sept. 9, can make things even more interesting for the selection committee by beating No. 18 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game (Noon ET, ABC/ESPN App).
“The criteria is not to put the undefeated teams in the four-team playoff,” Sankey said. “If we did that, we would have FCS teams in the CFP. You have to look deeply, and I think the committee has to consider big-picture issues like the Texas and Alabama game. That was a huge night. Should that game be scheduled? Take that game off Alabama’s schedule and what does this look like right now? You have to reward people for winning those games, absolutely. You just can’t ultimately penalize them. It’s not a one-week analysis; it’s a full-season analysis.”
SEC teams have captured six of the nine CFP national championships since the four-team format was introduced in the 2014 season. Four other SEC teams lost in the CFP national championship.
“Let’s go back to the basics of what it is we’re supposed to do,” Sankey said. “Go back to those criteria, and go back and look [at the] big picture. Again, I would make the case that one of these conferences is not like the others, from the standpoint of competitiveness, intensity, level of football that’s played. That’s shown itself year over year over year. That’s not unique this year.”