Playoff would have given UGA several more shots at national title

oval G logoAssuming the Big 10 representative to the BCS presidential oversight committee doesn’t manage to derail things, it looks like we’re headed toward a seeded four-team tournament for college football with the teams picked by a selection committee.

The committee will be charged with taking conference championships and strength of schedule into account, so there’s no guarantee that the teams that finish 1-4 in the polls will be selected, but more often than not that’s likely to be the case. In some instances, though, a team ranked #5 (or lower) might squeak in.

The real plus of such a system is that at the end of the regular season four teams have a shot at the national title instead of just two, which set my son Bill and I to wondering if such a playoff process had been in effect in the past, how often would Georgia have had a chance to play their way to a national championship?

Looking back, it turns out the Bulldogs would have made the playoff or been in contention for selection by the committee 11 times: 1942, 1946, 1959, 1966, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, 2002 and 2007. Note: For this exercise in alternate history, we defined a UGA team as being “in contention” if it was ranked in the Top 5 at the end of the regular season.

In looking at the hypothetical matchups, it’s interesting to note that UGA likely would have gotten to face some more legendary coaches (Woody Hayes, John McKay) and more games against Bear Bryant and Joe Pa, and would have been matched up against some famous players/teams, like the infamous SMU Mustangs of 1982.

There also might have been a rematch with Clemson in 1981. And while we wouldn’t have gotten Notre Dame in 1980, Georgia likely would have played the Fighting Irish in 1966.

Georgia probably would have had a tougher time winning out for the national championship in 1980 with a semifinal and final to play, but UGA might have won titles in other years, since they would have qualified at least a few times.

Let’s look at the years in question, using the final regular season AP or BCS poll.

We mainly concentrated on the era from Vince Dooley on, but let’s first take a brief look at the Wally Butts years:

In 1942 UGA finished the regular season #5 (they later finished #2 in AP and #1 in varying polls after a Rose Bowl victory for a share of the national title). With Frank Sinkwich and Charley Trippi in the backfield, there’s a decent chance a selection committee might have put the Dogs in a four-team playoff.

In 1946, Georgia finished the regular season ranked #3 (and wound up finishing #3 in the final poll as well), so a playoff berth would have been assured.

The 1959 Dogs finished the regular season ranked #5 but with 2 first place votes and a big-name quarterback in Francis Tarkenton, so again there’s a chance they would have been selected by the committee.

In 1966, Dooley’s Dogs won the SEC and finished the regular season #4, which using the playoff system that’s being considered now would have resulted in #4 UGA vs. #1 Notre Dame in a semifinal, with the winner of that game facing the winner of #2 Michigan State vs. #3 Alabama. The odds would have been against the Dogs, but that was a typical never-say-die Dooley team that might have pulled an upset. In reality, Georgia’s actual finish was #4 with a win over SMU in the Cotton Bowl.

Would Jake Scott have played for the 1968 national title? (University of Georgia)

Would Jake Scott have played for the 1968 national title? (University of Georgia)

In 1968, SEC champ Georgia finished the regular season #4, which would have resulted in #4 UGA vs. #1 Ohio State (coached by Woody Hayes), with the winner facing the winner of #2 USC (John McKay) and #3 Penn State (Joe Paterno). This was a very talented but temperamental Bulldog team that in reality finished #8 after losing to Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, so how the Dogs would have fared might have depended on how much Jake Scott and company partied the night before.

In 1976, SEC champion Georgia finished the regular season #5. Had they somehow managed to get selected by the committee, we know how this one would have turned out because in reality they lost in the Sugar Bowl to #1 Pittsburgh, which is who they would have faced if they could have somehow grabbed the #4 spot in the playoff.

Now we come to the Herschel years, when Georgia won three straight SEC titles.

In 1980, as we all know, Georgia finished the regular season ranked #1, which would have resulted in a semifinal matching #1 UGA vs. #4 Oklahoma, with the winner facing the winner of #2 Florida State vs. #3 Pittsburgh. Definitely a tougher road to the title than what actually happened, which was the Dawgs winning the championship after a Sugar Bowl win over #7 Notre Dame.

Georgia would have made the playoff in each of Herschel Walker's years. (Associated Press)

Georgia would have made the playoff in each of Herschel Walker's years. (Associated Press)

Georgia finished the 1981 regular season ranked #2, which would have resulted in #2 UGA vs. #3 Alabama (Bear’s second to last team and final good team), with the winner facing the winner of #1 Clemson vs. #4 Nebraska (which was the actual Orange Bowl matchup that Clemson won). Clemson, of course, had beaten UGA earlier that year. It would have been a great game had Georgia made it to a rematch. In reality, Georgia finished #6 after a loss to Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl.

In 1982, the Dawgs finished the regular season ranked #1, which would have resulted in #1 UGA vs. #4 SMU (Craig James! Eric Dickerson! Herschel Walker! NO PASSING!!!) with the winner facing the winner of #2 Penn State vs. #3 Nebraska. In reality, Georgia sadly finished #4 in the final poll after a Sugar Bowl loss to Penn State that shouldn’t have happened.

In the Mark Richt era, Georgia would have definitely qualified for the playoff once and possibly made it another time.

In 2002, Georgia won the SEC championship and finished the regular season ranked #3 in the BCS poll, which would have resulted in #3 UGA vs. #2 Ohio State in a semifinal, with the winner facing the winner of #1 Miami vs. #4 USC. That would have been quite a challenge, but certainly would have resulted in more interesting games than what we got in reality, where the Dawgs beat #14 FSU in the Sugar Bowl and wound up #3 in the final poll.

A playoff system might have given Knowshon Moreno a chance to play for the national title. (Associated Press)

A playoff system might have given Knowshon Moreno a chance to play for the national title. (Associated Press)

And 2007 is one of those cases where a playoff definitely would have resulted in better matchups than we got in the BCS. Georgia finished the regular season ranked #5 in the BCS poll (though #4 in the AP and coaches polls) and went on to crush #10 Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl and finish #2 in the final poll.

Many at the time thought the Dawgs would have been ranked higher had they won their division and/or conference. But by the end of the season Georgia, with Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, was probably the hottest team in college football and there’s at least a strong likelihood the selection committee would have put them in the playoff.

Had that happened, likely fourth-seed UGA would have faced #1 Ohio State, with the winner facing the winner of #2 LSU vs. #3 Oklahoma. I think the Dawgs could have taken Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes, which might have resulted in … an all-SEC national title game with one of the teams not having won its own conference division. And this despite there being a playoff!

Which, no doubt, would have had folks elsewhere in the nation howling for a new system of determining college football’s national champion …

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

226 comments Add your comment

Cuz

June 22nd, 2012
11:13 am

At the end of 2007 we were world beaters.

Land O' Lakes Dawg

June 22nd, 2012
11:15 am

We should have played USC in Rose Bowl the year we played Hawaii in Sugar. Definitely would have been in playoffs that year.

ARdawg

June 22nd, 2012
11:15 am

ARdawg

June 22nd, 2012
11:17 am

My GAWD man at the speculation of the playoff talk. It runs rampant

SSIgator

June 22nd, 2012
11:21 am

This may be a start to something better than the current system but, there are still 119 or 120 FBS schools and while not everyone would qualify, wherever the cutoff line is for playoffs, some people are not going to be happy with the selections.

jokurone

June 22nd, 2012
11:24 am

Dawgs in the hunt this year! Go Dawgs!!

Brian

June 22nd, 2012
11:25 am

Go Dawgs!!!! Nerds stay off the UGA blogs. Do not hate, appreciate. Its not worth a whole article on the one time tech would have made it. Waste of time. Wait, has tech ever finished top 4? hahahaha

Rduck

June 22nd, 2012
11:29 am

Brian- yeah we have finished top 4… as in 4 Nat’l Championships. How many do you guys have and were you even born to see the last one?

Footbal Guy

June 22nd, 2012
11:45 am

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GTBob

June 22nd, 2012
11:51 am

so there’s no guarantee that the teams that finish 1-4 in the polls will be selected, but more often than not that’s likely to be the case.

Well this sounds like a nice hopeful assumption based on no evidence at all.

Chi Town

June 22nd, 2012
11:54 am

When is the next blackout?

ARdawg

June 22nd, 2012
11:56 am

I look at it this way, if a team can’t make a compelling case to being #1 or #2, they have no dog in the fight for not being chosen #3 or #4

This is reality dreamers

June 22nd, 2012
11:58 am

And if a frog had wings……………………….

This is reality dreamers

June 22nd, 2012
11:59 am

Bill do you really get paid for this crap?

Jacket99

June 22nd, 2012
12:01 pm

GeoffDawg

June 22nd, 2012
12:04 pm

Bob, why not take your obvious abundance of free time and volunteer at a nursing home? They enjoy incessant and often mindless droning.

DawginLex

June 22nd, 2012
12:06 pm

2002 UGA team was the best team in the country that did not cheat

Auburn goes undefeated and wins anything at all only by cheating yet the 2002 UGA team had to play #14 FSU in the Sugar Bowl

The new 4 team deal won’t stop the complaints either

What happens when there are 4 teams undefeated and a 1 loss SEC champion?

Wilson Pickett

June 22nd, 2012
12:09 pm

If the housing bubble hadn’t burst my home in Destin would still be worth 2.8 million! Give it a break Billy and it’s still 1980 for the leg humpers. Consider yourself lucky you didn’t have to play Bama in 80 otherwise you have nothing but arrest.

bhumpdawg

June 22nd, 2012
12:18 pm

Put the least teams in FCA 2 and have no crappy games all year…..Go Dawgs!!!

kingdaddy

June 22nd, 2012
12:19 pm

Pickett,
If you’re sacared of a play-off, just say so…

good grief

June 22nd, 2012
12:21 pm

Some people just need to lighten up. It’s Friday, and as usual the haters line up on the ajc. If you dont like the Dawgs, then why read the Junkyard Blawg? makes no sense.

good grief

June 22nd, 2012
12:23 pm

So what if passionate fans like to think about what couldve been? So what if on the JUNKYARD BLAWG Dawg fans discuss the near misses, and the new proposals, and how that effect OUR team? Why do you even care? Why be offended by that? Get a life!

Dawg Haus

June 22nd, 2012
12:23 pm

Interesting post, Bill, but I’m afraid it’s perfect troll food.

truedawg

June 22nd, 2012
12:24 pm

I think we will see with in the next 10 years a few games played with SEC teams as the final game.

2007…Dawgs would have crushed LSU..Dawgs snaped after the UF game and drank “super sauce” lol I think they would have made it to the second round that year in the NFL playoff..well it all goes down to the basic rule of football..win them all and you will be in the game..unless your Aurburn :) GATA!! win em all! GO DAWGS!!!

good grief

June 22nd, 2012
12:26 pm

2002 was a near miss but I dont think they were the best team that year. 2007 we didnt have the best season but we were def one of the best teams by the end of that year. Rocky Top sure got us that year.

Tom

June 22nd, 2012
12:27 pm

Blah Blah Blah wait till next year

good grief

June 22nd, 2012
12:28 pm

good insight tom

TDone

June 22nd, 2012
12:29 pm

Mark

June 22nd, 2012
12:31 pm

It still depends on the “beauty contest” to settle it. Put the conference champs of the big conferences against each other and it doesn’t matter how any person votes it is settled on the field!

UGA Fan

June 22nd, 2012
12:33 pm

I don’t think we would deserve to play in the playoffs that many times.

Dawg 2006

June 22nd, 2012
12:40 pm

Great, I just dont like to see our team playing playoff games. Just more opportunities to watch ourselves get destroyed.

Forever UGA

June 22nd, 2012
12:41 pm

I’d rather there not be a playoff. I like being ranked high because of our easy schedule.

gbal

June 22nd, 2012
12:44 pm

Help me here…. I have not seen any indication ther there will even be polls when this plan takes shape? Has anyone else? If so, what type of poll are we talking about? A BCS formula type?

I personally feel like the committee is the wrong way to go on this. I support the best 4 teams should be in a playoff regardless….. AND I feel like a BCS formula which averages polls… includes computers and strength of schedule would be the best way to go VS a committee. There is less chance for bias.

Buckeye

June 22nd, 2012
12:44 pm

The old “coulda wouda shouda”. The dogs mantra.

59bulldawg

June 22nd, 2012
12:46 pm

My only complaint is that I would prefer an 8 team playoff which means 3 playoff games for the 2 teams that make it to the championship game. I think that by limiting it to 4 teams, they’re limiting the possibility of upsets . . . which is part of what makes the 64 team basketball tourney so exciting and HS football playoffs so compelling. If time and number of games were not a consideration I’d be in favor of a 16 team system but the presidents and ADs and probably a number of coaches would never go for a system that demands 5 additional games for the eventual champ and runner-up. The larger the pool of participants (within reason) the closer college football comes to a true playoff. I’m happy with the changes being made . . . just think they still need to make a few more to get the sport to the quality championship game it deserves.

AltamahaDawg

June 22nd, 2012
12:46 pm

11:21pm….. Really Cap’t obvious?

Any other material copied from the pages of “The book of Generic Football Comments for those Pretending to have an Opinion” to share with us today?

DawginLex

June 22nd, 2012
12:48 pm

buckeye

thank God there was no playoff or your sorry program would have never made its way to the title game 3 times since 2002.

Also thank the NCAA for being inept and not shutting down OSU in 2002 for cheating with Clarett

7576DAWG

June 22nd, 2012
12:49 pm

If a selection committee picks the four teams we will never have two SEC teams in the final four. Everybody in America outside the SEC is envious , jealous and hates to give the SEC credit for being the best and will do anything to keep an SEC team out of the playoff.
If I was McGarity I would start with the 2014 schedule playing some of the hard games earlier like Auburn should be played between the 3rd game and 6th game.Leaving the Florida game the 9TH game of the year will be enough to keep us high in the polls and playing Georgia Tech the last game will keep the end of the schedule respectable. If you play too many hard games at the end it will be a lot harder to win all and one lost game in the last 4 weeks would give the selection committee an excuse to exclude that team.

gbal

June 22nd, 2012
12:49 pm

Just to show of prove the accuracy of the BCS poll…. 78% of the bowl games last year were won by the higher ranked teams. Of the misses, (a lower ranked beat a higher rank) two of the wins were separated by only one point in the ranking…. i.e. #2 bama beat #1 LSU… I think this says a lot about the formula… now we can always question did it pick 1 and 2 correctly or should 3 or 4 been in the 2 slot and faced LSU…. nothing is perfect and at least we are better off with 4 teams in moving forward… But a Committee to choose the 4??? I see bigger problems with this.

ARdawg

June 22nd, 2012
12:54 pm

Ah geesh. Another GT fan with a camper trailer 8 blocks off the beach and he values it in the millions. Need we say more about the GT trolls?

TossSweep

June 22nd, 2012
12:56 pm

I’m a Dawg fan but I just don’t see the point in bringing past seasons and put them in the mix of the upcoming change just to justify how close we could have been playing for an NC. I just don’t see the point. I guess if it makes certain Dawg fans feel good because it’s been over 32 years since we last won the NC, so be it. So when we look back 32 years from now and see this playoff system as not really helping UGA, we’ll see this same article saying how just leaving the current BCS process whould have helped UGA. Bill Jr will be writing that article.

ARdawg

June 22nd, 2012
12:56 pm

gbal

I foresee problems with a committee pick too. The BCS formula worked to a point. Why throw out what part of it is working?

Hucklberry Hound

June 22nd, 2012
12:58 pm

That Buck Belue talks just like me!

SSIgator

June 22nd, 2012
12:59 pm

AltamahaDawg -

And your insightful wisdom is . . .

We are waiting on the edge of our seat, oh wise one.

RawDawg

June 22nd, 2012
12:59 pm

This playoff system is going to be interesting… I like it because it should mean more interesting games at the end of the year, and more teams will have a shot at the prize.

But is it going to be more ‘fair’? No, I don’t think so. If they use a selection committee it will lead to even more controversy than we have now. Whether they went with a system cased on rank or conference champions, at least teams would know what they had to do to get in. As soon as a committee bumps a school ranked in the top 4 for somebody else, people are going to be up in arms. Seems to me that since conferences can’t agree on rank or conference champs, this is just a bad compromise.

I think this is all a stepping stone to an 8 team playoff. 5 Conference champs + 3 at large bids, perhaps top 3 non-conference champs by rank. Now that would be a fair system, and fun as hell to watch!

DawginLex

June 22nd, 2012
1:00 pm

would be a better system to play the bowls with the conference tie-ins then pick the 4 teams. could eliminate a team or two with the bowls

DawginLex

June 22nd, 2012
1:02 pm

SSI

I thought Bill King told you to only read the blog topic, not the comments?

AltamahaDawg

June 22nd, 2012
1:04 pm

Why do sports fans speculate what might have happened to historical teams in modern day situations? Are you kidding? New to the world of sports banter, or what? Because thats what they do. It’s fun. It’s interesting. And having a thin skin about it is so, not.

SSIgator

June 22nd, 2012
1:06 pm

No Nancy. It was Joey he told that to. Comments do not bother me, unlike others that post and then whine.

AltamahaDawg

June 22nd, 2012
1:12 pm

Appearntly they do.