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Georgia Is the Playoff Favorite After a Wild Rivalry Week

Georgia is running away from the college football pack like Brock Bowers ran away from Georgia Tech. Credit: Tony Walsh

In the final week of the 2021 regular season, the gods of the sport saw fit to bless us with great rivalry game after great rivalry game, many of which had College Football Playoff implications.

To start off the day, Michigan pulled the old switcheroo on Ohio State. The Wolverines defeated the Buckeyes for the first time since 2011, eliminating OSU from playoff contention and catapulting themselves into that spot. Then Auburn took Alabama the distance in the Iron Bowl. The Tide needed a 97-yard drive and four overtimes to overcome the Tigers. Finally, Bedlam lived up to the name as Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma to keep the Pokes in the playoff hunt.

Thanks to the chaos wrought this weekend and throughout the season, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Clemson—with 14 playoff appearances among them—will miss the College Football Playoff. There’s a chance Alabama, with six playoff appearances, might miss out, too. In their place, we could be looking at new blood, such as Cincinnati, Michigan and Oklahoma State.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Damn Bulldogs stand above the fray. While other teams have bloodied and broken themselves on the regular season battlefield, the Dawgs strolled through it, picking off stragglers as they went, trampling the weak and hurdling the dead.

Georgia went undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1980, and the Dawgs were every bit as dominant as their record indicates. They have outscored opponents 443–83, and rank first nationally in defensive points per play and third in offensive points per play. The defense is one of the greatest in college football history, and the offense is one of the best in the country this year, once you get past the 5’11” former walk-on starting under center. Now only a game stands between the Dawgs and the College Football Playoff.

Notice I said “game” and not “win.” Barring a cataclysm heretofore not beheld by human eyes, we’re in, baby. Georgia’s accomplishments in the regular season stand above and beyond every other team. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a whole lot to play for. Of course, there is the prize of being crowned SEC champs for the 14th time in program history. But there is also the more tangible reward of slaying Nick Saban and his Crimson Dragon once and for all, likely keeping them out of the playoff in the process.

I’m going to say something that is incontrovertibly true but is still difficult to get out because of the deep psychological scarring that has been inflicted on me by the Alabama Crimson Tide: Georgia should win this game. I won’t say Georgia will win this game. But Georgia should win this game.

Based on everything we’ve seen this season, Georgia enters the game as the better team and the favorite. The Dawgs have fared better against common opponents, crushing Arkansas, Tennessee and Auburn, while each of them tested Bama to varying degrees. Georgia is better in both trenches. Alabama just went to war with Auburn for a full game plus four overtimes while Georgia was sitting its starters by the third quarter against Georgia Tech. 

Every sign points to a Georgia win. But that aforementioned deep psychological scarring has led me to doubt any matchup with Saban and the Tide. I don’t care about the stats or matchups, a team with that much talent coached by that dude can beat any team in the country in any given week.

But that doesn’t mean they will. And that doesn’t mean we don’t have an advantage. We can play loose because we can lose and keep on trucking. Our consolation prize is another chance to beat the Tide down the road. Bama has to win or its season is finished. Maybe that gives them the extra edge they need to be at their best. Or maybe it causes them to play a little too tight and try to force a little too much against a defense that’ll take several miles should you give it an inch.

All signs point to Georgia. Stay above the fray, and let’s finish this off.