Despite ugly loss, Georgia has path to playoff


ATHENS, Ga. - Despite the ugliest loss of any national championship contender, the No. 4 Bulldogs head into late November with a clear path to the College Football Playoff.

A little over a month ago, Georgia didn't look good at all.

The Bulldogs somehow lost at home to 24 -point underdog South Carolina, a team that is 4-7 and most recently took a 30-6 loss at Texas A&M - the team that Georgia, in an interesting twist, hosts Saturday in its final game of the season at Sanford Stadium.

That looked like it would completely derail any championship aspirations, but the Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1) have bounced back with impressive wins over No. 10 Florida and No. 16 Auburn, clinching the SEC East title for the third year in a row.

As it turned out, that unthinkable setback won't be a hindrance to any of Georgia's goals.

The Bulldogs still claimed the division title, the first team from the East to win three straight since the 1990s. They climbed back into the top four of the CFP rankings last week, the voters impressed enough with a schedule that also includes a victory over No. 15 Notre Dame to overlook the South Carolina defeat.

Essentially, Georgia is in the same position it's been the last two years after 10 games. If the Bulldogs can win their last two regular-season games, they'll play in the SEC title game - most likely against top-ranked LSU - for a spot in the four-team playoff.

Last season, the Bulldogs were again denied by the Crimson Tide, only it was in the SEC championship. Squandering a pair of 14-point leads, they lost 35-28 and had to settle for a spot in the Sugar Bowl rather than a berth in the playoff.

If the Bulldogs can beat No. 24 Texas A&M (7-3, 2-4) on Saturday they will be a huge favorite in the regular-season finale against a two-win Georgia Tech team, which was blown out last weekend by Virginia Tech 45-0.

Then, it's on to face LSU, presuming the Tigers get through their final two regular-season games against woeful Arkansas and Texas A&M without any slip-ups.

That South Carolina game is still lingering just a bit, serving as a reminder of what can go wrong.