This season college football fans have been told it’s Ohio against the World, Michigan vs. Everybody, Oregon vs. Them, etc. etc.
Two weeks before College Football Playoff selection Sunday, it’s really Georgia against the field.
The two-time defending national champions have been No. 1 all season, but it has been a methodical ramp up to Death Star mode for the Bulldogs. Georgia appears to be fully operational now.
A week after toying with Mississippi at home in what was a top-10 matchup on paper only, the Bulldogs tore up No. 21 Tennessee on the road Saturday for their 28th straight victory.
“All we’re trying to do is find the best version of ourselves,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
On the way to trying to become the first team to win three straight national titles in the poll era, Georgia became the first Southeastern Conference team to have three consecutive 8-0 regular seasons in league play.
“What (Georgia has) done in the past couple years is special,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said.
Hard to say Georgia was ever really doubted this year. Some took a cautious approach as the Bulldogs played a weak nonconference schedule and then looked less-than-dominant against SEC low-lights South Carolina and Auburn.
They had a new quarterback in Carson Beck. They had key offensive players dealing with injuries: receiver Ladd McConkey, tight end Brock Bowers, tackle Amarius Mims and running back Kendall Milton.
The defense, which produced almost an entire 11-man starting unit of NFL players the last two seasons, was not quite as scary.
Just two weeks ago, Missouri gave the Bulldogs all they could handle — which probably says more about the Tigers than it does Georgia.
Bowers and Mims returned last week against Ole Miss, and Georgia’s offense now seems to be able to do pretty much whatever it wants. Whatever the Bulldogs lost in experience and mobility with Stetson Bennett, Beck makes up for by being a better passer.
There will be an interesting debate about who is QB3 after Caleb Williams and Drake Maye in the next NFL draft. Beck could end up in that conversation.
This is the point in the season when the number of CFP contenders shrinks. In the final year of the four-team playoff, the race still includes about nine teams with a chance.
How many can beat Georgia?
It would make the rest of the season more fun and interesting to think as many as six or seven of those contenders could knock off the Bulldogs. Fun, but probably folly.
Fact is, in the super-team era, when the elite recruits cluster at just a few schools, parity at the top of college football is almost non-existent.
New quarterbacks at Georgia and Alabama and Ohio State, the other recruiting superpowers, gave hope for others to break through this season. None more so than No. 2 Michigan.
The Wolverines played their closest game of the season Saturday at Maryland, sputtering on offense and needing two safeties, a defensive touchdown and several fourth-quarter stops to hold off the Terrapins.
“We all know what time it is,” linebacker Michael Barrett said. “Once this game was over, we knew where our attention was going to go.”
Michigan will try to make it three straight wins against No. 3 Ohio State next week in Ann Arbor, a monster game for a rivalry that has had more than its share. The winner faces Iowa, which slogged to another West Division title, in the Big Ten championship with a CFP spot on the line.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will again not be on the sideline next week as he serves the final of a three-game ban from the Big Ten as punishment for a sign-stealing scheme that has brought off-the-field turmoil to Michigan’s season.
On the field, Michigan believes its experienced roster has closed the gap on Georgia. A long look at those two teams suggests not enough.
Georgia faces rival Georgia Tech next week before playing No. 8 Alabama (10-1) in the SEC championship game.
The Crimson Tide might have the best chance to beat the Bulldogs, but even that might not keep them out of the CFP.
If it is Georgia vs. the field, the Bulldogs look like the best bet right now.
The season changed for No. 4 Florida State on Saturday night when star quarterback Jordan Travis went down with what looked like a serious injury to his left leg in the first quarter of a victory against North Alabama.
“When Jordan went down, nobody ever wants to see a player go down,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “Don’t have any updates on it tonight, but I was proud of the way our guys responded in the game.”
The FCS opponent was supposed to be a tune-up and rest-up game for the Seminoles, a week before playing rival Florida.
Now the Seminoles will almost certainly have to face the Gators and No. 9 Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game without their Heisman Trophy contender.
It would be a brutally sad way to end a great college career and, of course, the injury has huge playoff ramifications. The Seminoles won’t be nearly as explosive without Travis, and just beating Florida and Louisville becomes a much tougher task.
In season when there might be a glut of playoff contenders making a case for one of the four spots, it’s fair to wonder how the selection committee’s view of the Seminoles (No. 4 CFP) will be impacted without Travis.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: No. 5 Washington stayed unbeaten without scoring a point in the second half against No. 10 Oregon State. Michael Penix Jr. didn’t do much to bolster his Heisman Trophy candidacy, but in need of a first down to seal it late, he fired a strike to Rome Odunze to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. … Oregon State can still play spoiler Friday against No. 6 Oregon. If the Beavers win and No. 19 Arizona beats Arizona State, the Wildcats would reach the conference title game in a remarkable turnaround season for coach Jedd Fisch. … No. 7 Texas needs one more victory to clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game after surviving its last trip to Iowa State for the foreseeable future. There is still a three-team tie for third place, but No. 24 Oklahoma State is in with a win at home against BYU next week because it has beaten both No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 23 Kansas State, which beat Kansas for the 15th straight time. … UCLA thumped USC (7-5) in what very well could be Heisman winner Caleb Williams’ last college game. That ends a colossal disappointment of a season for coach Lincoln Riley and makes the speculation about Bruins coach Chip Kelly’s job status even more interesting. UCLA has one more game left against Cal. An 8-4 season is possible. It’s reasonable for UCLA to think it can do better than Kelly as it enters the Big Ten, but it’s also risky to assume it. … LSU’s Jayden Daniels added to his Heisman resume by accounting for eight TDs (six passing, two rushing) against Georgia State. Daniels’ main competition is probably Oregon’s Bo Nix, who threw six TD passes in the first half against Arizona State. … Jeff Brohm’s first season leading Louisville has been coach-of-the-year worthy. The Cardinals (10-1) clinched a spot in the ACC championship for the first time by winning at Miami in a back-and-forth game. … One of the problems with big division-less conferences is contending teams not playing each other. In the American Athletic Conference, No. 17 Tulane,UTSA and SMU are all 7-0. The Green Wave and Roadrunners play next week. SMU has played neither of them and could earn a spot in the title game by beating Navy (5-5) at home. … Auburn ordered a cupcake the week before the Iron Bowl and got served a live rattlesnake. New Mexico State earned $1.8 million and a 31-10 victory for the late-season trip to the SEC. Coach Jerry Kill’s team is 9-3 and heading to the Conference USA title game against No. 25 Liberty (11-0) no mater what happens next week against Jacksonville State. … The number of unbeaten teams is down to six after No. 18 James Madison lost in overtime to Appalachian State. JMU might still find its way into a bowl game, but any talk about whether the Dukes should be in contention for a New Year’s Six bowl is over.
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