There is only one full weekend of the regular season left, and UGA Football is still looking the best. They are one of three unbeaten FBS teams, and have clinched a spot in their title game. The sole adversary left to make a run at the Bulldogs before the postseason is their state rival, Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets, though, have what is essentially zero chance of topping the Dawgs this weekend. With an overall record of 3-8, they are one of the worst teams in the ACC (one of the worst conferences).
Georgia Tech will be hosting, and have fans who are still enthralled by their rivalry with Georgia. That being said, the Yellow Jackets should make as brutal of a season finale as possible for UGA Football. But the Dawgs are known for traveling well, and they are a mismatch in just about every sense of the word. So realistically, Georgia shouldn’t struggle to hit 12-0 this year, regardless of what all GT may have up its sleeve.
Despite that, however, the Bulldogs should not being looking over any opponent, especially now. Rather, they should just focus on putting Tech down and moving forward. But when heading into the postseason, there are three teams that they just might need to keep their eyes on.
Those three teams are Alabama, Ohio State and, surprisingly, Cincinnati. The reason for this is because they just might be who the Bulldogs find themselves in the playoff bracket with.
Team #1: Alabama Crimson Tide
This one should be fairly obvious. Alabama will be facing off against a struggling Auburn in the Iron Bowl this weekend, before heading into the SEC title game with Georgia. There have been no more than two teams that have been widely considered as capable of besting the Dawgs, and the Crimson Tide are one of them.
Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart, a former coordinator under Tide head coach Nick Saban, has never beaten his mentor. However, he has certainly come close, and this is his best squad yet. With everything pointing to UGA’s victory (and critics expecting them to crack under the pressure), the last thing Smart needs on his legacy is another botched attempt at getting over the hump.
Again, Bama will be facing Auburn, that currently sits with an ungodly record of 4-7. With that in mind, the Tide are expected to indeed roll, and finish their regular-season slate at 11-1. But, Alabama has struggled greatly with inferior opponents on multiple occasions this season. Also, the battle will be taking place in Jordan-Hare. If Georgia shouldn’t overlook Georgia Tech, then the Crimson Tide should definitely not overlook the Tigers.
The Iron Bowl will be one last chance for the Dawgs to gather some information on what all Bama could unleash on them in Atlanta. Not only that, but UGA Football has already dominated Auburn (with Bo Nix), so comparing themselves to how well/unwell the Tide look against a TJ Finley-led bunch could serve as a pinch of encouragement.
If Bama wins the conference title, they will be promised a spot in the playoff bracket, most likely with Georgia by their side. Losing to the Tide once and having to redeem yourself would be upsetting, but losing to them twice and walking away with nothing would be detrimental.
Team #2: Ohio State Buckeyes
Remember how Alabama was regarded as one of perhaps two teams that could compete with Georgia? Well, the other one was Ohio State.
The Buckeyes made believers out of a ton of viewers with their high-powered offense, but a home loss to Oregon was difficult to ignore, as was a struggle win over Nebraska deep into the season.
Not all hope was lost, though, as they just kept finding ways to win and stay in the playoff bubble. But what won many doubters over? Last weekend’s 56-7 win over 7th-ranked Michigan State.
The Spartans, too, were a 1-loss Big Ten power. They also had a better win than OSU by beating state rival Michigan, 37-33. And Heisman-worthy running back Kenneth Walker III put the icing on the cake for sure.
However, not even Walker was able to keep up with Ohio State. The back had only 25 yards on the ground with six carries–far and away his worst rushing performance all season. Walker down proved to mean the same for the MSU offense altogether. On Saturday, the Spartans joined only Akron and Indiana in the club of teams who were held beneath 10 points against the Buckeyes.
Obviously that’s not terrific company for a top-10 team to be in, but OSU didn’t care because they had the power to make it happen. Fun fact: Ohio State beat MSU by the same score that Georgia beat Charleston Southern on the very same day–56-7. That is frightening.
The Toughest Playoff Path Ever Seen
Despite the Buckeyes just now beating a top-tier conference rival, they now have two even-bigger games to win if they want to make the CFP bracket. First, they have to travel to Ann Arbor to face another top-10 rival in Michigan. If they win there, they will then have a date with either Wisconsin or Iowa in the Big Ten title game, both of which are also ranked.
Most pundits would agree that the Big Ten is the toughest league in college football outside of the SEC. Heck, it could even be the best in a good-enough year. But if anyone has ever questioned such a statement, they shouldn’t anymore.
UGA Football should be taking any notes possible on OSU, because if they can survive all of that, there isn’t much that they can’t.
Team #3: Cincinnati Bearcats
And here is the outlier. Yes, everyone and their mother knows that Cincy would stand no shot against the Bulldogs. And yet, they they gave the Dawgs a run for their money in the 2021 Peach Bowl, which the latter won by a whopping three points.
Now it is common knowledge that a game from last season should virtually no leverage in analyzing a hypothetical matchup for this season. However, the point is that fans blindly wrote off the Bearcats when last year’s date with Georgia was set; that didn’t stop them from shocking the nation, though. With that in mind, if the Dawgs do come in contact with Cincy in the playoffs, they should just make sure to not overlook them.
Cincinnati’s path to the bracket is pretty straightforward (assuming they’re in the top four after Tuesday night). On Black Friday, they will visit the 7-4 East Carolina Pirates. After that, they will meet the 10-1 Houston Cougars in the AAC title game.
By Cincy’s standards, that is not a particularly “easy” pair of games. But nonetheless, they have to win them both by convincing margins (20 points or more). In the process, they need to show little-to-no mistakes on offense and, even more so, defense. If the Bearcats beat ECU 44-21 and Houston 28-20, they can kiss their playoff dreams goodbye.
It is an unspoken rule in the world of college football: If a Group of 5 team wants playoff consideration, they must play as formidable of a schedule as possible, and do so as a Power 5 team would. Like it or not, that is what the committee wants to see.
If Cincinnati beats the Pirates 48-7 and Houston 40-13, they should get in. If the committee sees anything out of that ballpark, they’re done.
Why Cincinnati? Why Not Someone Else?
Assuming that Cincy is even in the top four after Wednesday, why should they get the nod over bigger names in the top 10, like Notre Dame and Oklahoma State? Well for starters, the Bearcats are another one of only three unbeaten FBS teams. The same cannot be said for those two.
Now if OKST wins out, they are practically guaranteed to jump Cincy. But what’s more likely: The Cowboys winning out, or the Bearcats winning out? For reference, while Cincinnati will be facing ECU and Houston, OKST will have Oklahoma and Baylor (again). Bit of a mismatch, there.
Not only that, but Cincy currently has a win better than all of OK State’s: 24-13 at Notre Dame.
Speaking of Notre Dame, that is where their hurdles come into play. A convincing home loss to a Group of 5 team doesn’t exactly sweeten the committee’s tea. But even if it did, the Independent Irish don’t have a conference championship game to participate in. Are fans supposed to believe that while Cincinnati and the Cowboys are beating ranked rivals on neutral fields, ND is going to jump them for doing nothing? Didn’t think so.
Several names surrounding Notre Dame’s in the rankings would have to collapse for them to have a true chance at sneaking into the bracket, and that just feels a tad far out of reach.
Takeaway for UGA Football
Don’t let the boosting of these teams’ egos take away from what is actually concrete: The Georgia Bulldogs are the best team in college football until further notice. They look the part on paper, and they definitely look it on the gridiron. They just can’t let the size of the moment–or the size of their opponent(s), for that matter–jeopardize the ultimate goal, and that is to bring UGA Football their first national title in over 40 years.
Georgia Tech can’t win, despite playing in an easier conference. Alabama has struggled tremendously against weaker foes. Ohio State has looked lost against Oregon in “The Shoe.” Cincinnati is still trying to prove an ounce of worth. All of those statements are true, and none of them should result in a Georgia defeat.