The worst-case scenario for the Oklahoma Sooners almost came to pass. The Georgia Bulldogs were up by two touchdowns late in the 3rd quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide. A win would have sent Georgia to the college football playoffs, but the loss by Alabama likely wouldn’t have knocked them out of the playoffs.
It was the unlikely scenario that could have kept the Oklahoma Sooners from moving up into the top four, but it didn’t happen. Alabama prevailed in the end thanks to heroic effort of backup quarterback Jalen Hurts.
The former SEC Player of the Year lost his job in the championship last year when Tua Tagovailoa came in to win it for Alabama. The star QB has been perfect ever since… until tonight’s game with Georgia. More on that in a moment.
Unless Clemson can repeat their embarrassing 2016 loss to Pitt, they’re going to finish perfect along with Alabama and Notre Dame. #4 Geogia’s loss means the #5 Sooners should easily move up to the last spot in the playoffs following an exciting 39-27 win over the Texas Longhorns, who had been the only team to beat the Sooners this year.
There will be plenty of debate about the #4 spot, but it’s just hype to build tension for what should be a no-brainer for the 13-person selection committee. But just in case there are still those who want to debate, here are the reasons the other three teams in contention for the #4 spot don’t deserve it.
- Georgia: They came close to beating the best team in the country and their only other loss was to powerful #10 LSU. But they’re a two-loss team without a conference championship. They should fall below Ohio State and Central Florida.
- Central Florida. The easiest case to be made for expanding the playoffs to eight teams is the twice-undefeated University of Central Florida. They’ve done everything they’re supposed to do, which is win, but the weakness of their schedule makes it impossible to put them in the top four when there are 1-loss teams in major conferences. If they want to be in the playoffs, they need to schedule and win tough non-conference games. Otherwise, they’ll just have to wait for an 8-team playoff system.
- Ohio State. Their impressive victory against then-#4 Michigan was what pushed them back into the playoff hunt, but that’s the problem. Their victory against Michigan was the only truly impressive thing they did. After losing to Purdue, they struggled in games that should have been easy wins for any playoff team. The selection committee promises to look at body of work. The big win against Michigan at home is the only part of their season worth heralding.
The playoff schedule should put Alabama vs Oklahoma and Clemson vs Notre Dame. Any arguments to the contrary are intended to stir up controversy where none exists.
What Alabama’s win did do was demonstrate the one bad game Tagovailoa has had this year. He finished 10-25 with 164 yards and two interceptions to go with one touchdown pass. When he left the game over an ankle injury, his team was behind by a touchdown.
Unlike the playoff selection committee, Heisman voters aren’t obligated to look at the body of work. The bad game for Tagovailoa coming on the biggest stage in the last game of the season will hurt his chances of winning the Heisman. He hasn’t had a challenge the entire year, having thrown only three passes in the fourth quarter all season. Some Heisman voters will look at this with questions about his poise, having had a horrendous outing in the most important game before voting.
He’s still the favorite. One can argue that his closest competitor, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, is hampered by the fact that an Oklahoma quarterback, Baker Mayfield, won the Heisman last year. That shouldn’t be the case, but Heisman voters aren’t obligated to be fair or unbiased.
Even in the Sooner’s one loss, Murray was impressive. He hasn’t had a bad game all season.
If Mayfield hadn’t won last year, I think Murray would be the favorite. But bias will come into play with Heisman voters and Tagovailoa is likely going to win. Hopefully we’ll get to see them go head-to-head in the playoffs.