NCAA

Can the Georgia Bulldogs Still Make the Playoffs After Gamecocks Loss?

The Georgia Bulldogs entered Week 7 of the 2019 College Football season tied with the Ohio State Buckeyes for the No. 3 spot in the AP Top 25 poll and standing alone in the No. 3 spot in the Coaches Poll. The Bulldogs were 5-0, had a win over the No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on their resume, and had outscored their opponents 214 to 54 thus far in 2019.

And then on Saturday, it all came tumbling down in a disastrous 20-17 double-overtime loss at home to the unranked South Carolina Gamecocks. Can the Bulldogs recover from such an ugly loss in what could be a very crowded field of talented zero-loss and one-loss teams this year?

This was an inexcusable loss

The South Carolina Gamecocks are not a very good football team. They entered this game ranked outside of the top 50 in both points for with 30.6 per game and points against with 24.4 per game. Compare this to the Georgia Bulldogs, who ranked 10th in the nation in points for with 42.8 per game and seventh in points against with 10.8 per game.

The Gamecocks, who were 2-3 before this upset win, started the game with their backup quarterback Ryan Hilinski as starter Jake Bentley is out with a foot sprain. Hilinski left the game with an injury in the third quarter, leaving third-stringer Dakereon Joyner to go the rest of the way.

Georgia was a 21-point favorite to win this game, meaning that Las Vegas bookmakers were projecting that the Bulldogs would win by three touchdowns. The Bulldogs were also -1500 favorites to win, which translates to a 93.75% chance of victory.

This is definitely what one of those scenarios in the 6.25% chance of losing neighborhood looked like. Georgia got off to a sluggish start to the game in going down 17-10 in the first half and never shook out of it. Quarterback Jake Fromm, who hadn’t thrown an interception this season, threw three. It was a doomsday scenario.

Fortunately for Georgia, the committee would never leave out a one-loss SEC Champion

Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs was left dumbfounded by this upset
Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs was left dumbfounded by this upset | Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For as bad as this loss was and how likely it is to drop the Bulldogs severely in the rankings, one fact remains; the College Football Playoff Committee won’t leave a one-loss SEC champion out of the playoffs.

The SEC is so well-respected that in 2017-18, Alabama made it into the playoffs with a loss without even winning the SEC Championship (Georgia did that year). The conference has had six playoff teams since the four-team playoff began in 2014-15, doubling the three teams that the Big Ten and Big 12 have had and tripling the two that the Pac-12 has had.

So it’s safe to assume that if the Bulldogs go 6-0 over their last six games and then beat the SEC West representative in the SEC Championship Game, they will still be going to the playoffs despite this loss.

The schedule shapes up nicely for a rebound

The Georgia Bulldogs have some extremely favorable out-of-division scheduling this year as they don’t have to face the LSU Tigers or the Alabama Crimson Tide until a potential showdown in the SEC Championship Game. The rest of the schedule has Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas A&M at home, Auburn and Georgia Tech on the road, and Florida in the annual ‘World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party’ in Jacksonville.

This isn’t a cakewalk, but the Bulldogs should be favored in all six of these games, if not a very small underdog at Auburn. The real test comes in the SEC Championship Game, likely against Alabama or LSU.

But that was always going to be the case. So all this loss did was erase Georgia’s room for error and the team’s potential argument for a spot if it went undefeated and lost a close game in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs are still in control of their own destiny, and could save their season if they use this game as a wake-up call.