The LSU football team heads into the SEC Championship Game against fourth-ranked Georgia as the top team in the nation looking to shake-up the College Football Playoff.
The LSU football team will play in the SEC Championship for the first time since 2011, where they defeated the 12th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs 42-10. Eight years later and the Tigers again square off against the Bulldogs, who are ranked fourth in the nation this time around.
LSU was the first-ranked team in the nation at the time of that game and went on to play Alabama, who LSU defeated earlier in the season, in the National Championship Game. Alabama won 21-0.
Alabama does not factor into this equation at all anymore as their loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl moved them to ninth in the country, completely eliminating them from College Football Playoff contention for the first time in its existence.
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This game does have big implications for the College Football Playoff as well. We have already made the case that if LSU were to lose against Georgia they still would deserve to be in the playoff because of their resume compared to other teams that are on the fringe.
This would likely move Georgia up in the rankings to second or third and LSU down to fourth. Regardless, with four wins over top-10 opponents in the regular season, it is impossible to deny LSU, even as a one-loss team.
However, if Georgia loses this game then they undoubtedly will be, or at least should be kept out of the College Football Playoff. They are already on the fringe as the fourth-ranked team and losing this game would give them their second loss of the year.
Georgia does have three impressive wins against Notre Dame, Florida and Auburn but also has an ugly loss against South Carolina. No two-loss team has ever been voted into the playoff, even the ones that were a power-five champion. Being a two-loss team while not being a power-five champion will keep them out of the game.
So, who will make it into the playoff? There are multiple outcomes that could occur, stemming from the PAC-12 Championship and the Big-12 Championship.
The PAC-12 Championship pits the fifth-ranked Utah Utes against 13th-ranked Oregon. Utah’s lone ranked win this season was against 17th-ranked Arizona State, who is no longer ranked. Their one loss came on the road at the hands of USC, who finished the year as the 24th-ranked team in the nation.
A win over Oregon would give them two wins over ranked opponents, although Oregon’s resume is not all that impressive, either. They have two ranked wins, both against teams ranked 20th and below at the time, and lost to Auburn in Week 1.
Utah winning this game could very well get them into the playoff as the PAC-12 Champion, simply because the voters have already shown preference to the Utes as the fifth-ranked team. Oregon winning this game likely won’t get them into the playoff. Remember: no two-loss team has ever made the playoff.
The Big-12 Championship pits sixth-ranked Oklahoma versus eighth-ranked Baylor. Oklahoma has three ranked wins, against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State, although Baylor is the only team that is still ranked.
They also have an ugly road loss against Kansas State, who defeated them 48-41. Baylor, on the other hand, has no wins over ranked opponents and lost one game, to Oklahoma.
If the LSU football team defeats Georgia and Oregon and Oklahoma win then Oklahoma will likely get in. If Utah wins I think they get in outright, despite what happens in the Big-12 Championship. If Oregon and Baylor both win, though, I am unsure if either team gets in.
Oregon would be a two-loss champion who simply capitalized on the weak Pac-12 North and Baylor would be a team whose lone ranked win was over Oklahoma, a team they also lost to earlier in the year.
The only other possibility that I could imagine would be 10th-ranked Wisconsin beating second-ranked Ohio State in the Big-10 Championship. But even in that instance, Wisconsin is a two-loss team, although they have a more impressive resume with wins over Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota.
Out of all the teams that the LSU football team could play in the first round, the Oklahoma Sooners are probably the most dangerous, as they can keep up in an offensive slugfest. However, even then, the Tigers should be able to get the job done. They have to get through Georgia first.