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Slive: Hypothetically, College Football Playoff would’ve been to UGA’s advantage last season

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive

DESTIN, Fla. — If the College Football Playoff had started last season, rather than the 2014 season, it should have provided Georgia a shot at a rematch with Alabama for the national championship.

That’s according to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, an architect of the four-team playoff that will replace the BCS.

“Last year, in our (SEC) football championship game, we had two great teams playing in what you all would agree with me was one of the great games,” Slive said at the SEC spring meetings. “We want a selection committee that would look at those two teams and say, ‘The fact that Georgia lost by 5 yards doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be in the playoff, along with the winner.’ That’s the kind of committee I’m looking for.”

Georgia lost the SEC Championship game 32-28 when time ran out with the Bulldogs 5 yards from the Alabama end zone, a victim of a fluky tipped pass. Georgia dropped to No. 7 in the BCS standings, was bypassed by the four BCS bowls and fell to the Capital One Bowl, where the Bulldogs defeated Nebraska. Alabama went on to rout Notre Dame in the BCS title game.

“Georgia didn’t even get in a BCS game — how ridiculous was that?” Alabama coach Nick Saban said this week. “And we probably wouldn’t have gotten in one had they beaten us.”

But in the new playoff system — at least as Slive envisions the yet-to-be-named selection committee operating — a team that loses the SEC Championship game under similar circumstances after having a regular season like Georgia had would get a reprieve.

Extending Slive’s scenario, Georgia might have played Notre Dame in one semifinal and Alabama might have played Florida or Oregon in the other. If Georgia and Alabama had won their semis, that SEC Championship game would have been replayed as the National Championship game.

All of that is wildly hypothetical, given that the playoff did not exist last season (or this season). But it does provide a glimpse into how college football’s postseason could be transformed when the playoff era arrives.

The playoff field will not be limited to conference champions, and there will be no cap on how many teams can make the field from a particular league.

Such judgments will be left to the selection committee, expected to have 12 to 20 members. SEC coaches and athletic directors have been asked to submit suggestions to Slive by today of people they think should be considered for the committee. Slive and other conference commissioners will pass recommendations along to Bill Hancock, executive director of the playoff.

Strength of schedule will be one of the criteria considered by the committee. How schedule strength will be measured, however, is up in the air, complicating the ongoing debate about whether the SEC should expand league schedules from eight games to nine.

“What we all would love to see is the formula that gives a team the best chance (to reach the playoff),” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “There is no formula now like the RPI in basketball. They’re just not that far along.”

Said Slive: “We have to create metrics, create data, that can supplement the eyeball test.”

The committee, according to Saban, should not eliminate a team with an otherwise stellar resume for losing to an elite opponent, as Georgia did to Alabama.

“If we all played more good opponents,” Saban said, “you could lose more games and still have a chance.”

After the SEC title game, Saban ranked the Bulldogs No. 3 on his coaches’ poll ballot, indicating he shares Slive’s view they would have belonged in a four-team playoff.

Alabama’s 42-14 victory against Notre Dame in the BCS title game confirmed the merits of the team that fell 5 yards short of defeating the Crimson Tide in the Georgia Dome.

“That’s the heartbreaking part of it, just knowing how close you were to a chance of playing for a national championship,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said this week. “And we all want that so much.”

Six months later, the loss remains painful enough to Richt that he hasn’t been able to complete part of his offseason routine: watching the telecasts of all of his team’s games from the previous season.

“I haven’t watched that one yet. I’ve watched just about every other one,” Richt said. “I’m getting close to (watching it).

“I feel like both teams played beautifully, and it was just one epic battle that we came up on the short end of.”

Asked if the loss became even more excruciating after he saw Alabama’s domination of Notre Dame, Richt replied: “It didn’t make me feel much better.”

The playoff, if it had existed, might have offered quite a consolation prize.


SEC Coaches vote 13-1 to keep eight-game conference schedule

DESTIN, Fla. — Alabama’s Nick Saban had acknowledged he was in the minority among SEC football coaches in favoring a nine-game league schedule, and that turned out to be quite an understatement.

League coaches were opposed to the idea by a margin of 13-1 when they hashed out the issue at the SEC’s spring meetings, LSU’s Les Miles and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier confirmed afterward. Saban was the only supporter.

However, that hardly is the end of the issue. Ultimately, although not this week, a decision on whether to increase league schedules from eight games to nine will be made by the presidents of the SEC schools and Commissioner Mike Slive.

Even some of the coaches who favor keeping the eight-game schedule suspect an increase is inevitable at some point.

“I think we will end up moving to nine games eventually. It’s just my personal opinion,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said after Wednesday’s meeting. “We created an SEC Network, and at the end of the day it’s going to be driven by the dollar. Having those (ninth) games will be important to have enough quality games on television.”

But Miles resisted the suggestion of inevitability: “Until someone proves to us that a nine-game schedule is an advantage ... it stands to reason that an eight-game schedule in our conference puts us in position to win national championships.”

While an eight-game schedule had near unanimity among the coaches, opinions were split about 50-50 on whether to maintain fixed cross-division rivalry games (such as Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee) or to rotate all cross-division opponents, Spurrier said. Among those in favor of keeping the games: Georgia coach Mark Richt and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whose schools have met 116 times in football.

The SEC is committed to eight-game league schedules with one fixed cross-division opponent through at least the 2014 season. The league hasn’t given a timetable for making a longer-term scheduling decision.