Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks with Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) in the huddle during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Georgia Tech and Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Georgia won 37-14.

News Joshua L Jones

No. 1 Georgia zeroes in on now, not next

Winning the SEC championship game Saturday guarantees Georgia a return trip to the College Football Playoff semifinals and a relative home game for the chance to play for the national title for the second time in as many seasons.

But the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs balance that forward glance with the reality check of what could happen if No. 14 LSU pulls the upset at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to rearrange the final CFP rankings.

“There’s no thought of the next step,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “There’s such a long break between this step and next step. This is the culmination of a season. The next opportunity, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The Bulldogs (12-0, 8-0 SEC) haven’t lost since the 2021 SEC Championship game, when Alabama needed a win to reach the semifinals and walked away with a 41-24 victory over Georgia.

LSU won five games in a row and climbed to No. 5 in the CFP rankings before losing to Texas A&M last week. The Tigers lost to Florida State in their season opener and to Tennessee on Oct. 8, then didn’t play to their season-long standard against the Aggies. LSU’s John Emery Jr. ran for three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough.

Smart said the Tigers are more than capable of fitting the bill as spoilers. LSU’s marquee win this season was a 32-31 overtime thriller on Nov. 5 that sent Alabama into the national title picture periphery.

“They got a lot of talent, a lot of really fast, athletic players,” Smart said. “The skill level on both sides of the ball for them, great size, great speed. They got one of the most physical offensive lines we’ve played.”

Georgia has a lot of talent even after losing several starters to the NFL draft. The Bulldogs are No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense at 11.33 points per game and have won every game this season by at least a touchdown. The Bulldogs are giving up 2.97 yards per carry and are second in the nation with 79.5 rushing yards per game allowed.

The Tigers avoided a change at quarterback this week despite starter Jayden Daniels being banged up by the Texas A&M defense.

“He’s good to go,” Kelly said of Daniels, an Arizona State transfer who has 15 touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

LSU coach Brian Kelly, formerly of Notre Dame, faces Kirby Smart for the third time and is 0-2. This is the fifth time Georgia and LSU are meeting for the SEC title.

“We’re going to play a physical football team that has the style of its head coach. They’re going to play great defense. They’re going to be physical on both sides of the ball,” Kelly said. “I mean, everything’s going to come very difficult. Nothing’s going to be easy. You’re going to have to earn everything. Quite frankly, that’s the exciting part about it. You know what you’re going to get. … It doesn’t get any better than this.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) and offensive lineman Brett Neilon (62) celebrate after the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia, Michigan, TCU, USC top 4 in final rankings before field picked

Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Southern California are in prime position for the College Football Playoff five days before the field is finalized.

The Bulldogs, Wolverines, Horned Frogs and Trojans occupied the top four spots in the penultimate CFP rankings of the season revealed Tuesday night.

That quartet of programs will play in their respective conference title games on Friday and Saturday. The four-team field will be cemented the following Sunday; Georgia (12-0), Michigan (12-0) and TCU (12-0) may have locked up their spots even if they lose Saturday.

Michigan ran away from Ohio State 45-23 on the road Saturday and moved up one spot to No. 2, remaining behind defending national champion Georgia.

“As we looked at it, Georgia, there was nothing they did last weekend against Georgia Tech that to really diminish it,” CFP selection chair and NC State athletic director Boo Corrigan said in an ESPN interview. “They’re 4-0 against ranked teams in our Top 25. Michigan, huge win, particularly in the second half against Ohio State (and) 2-0 against teams in the Top 25. Again, we didn’t see any reason to move Georgia out of the top spot.”

TCU will face No. 10 Kansas State in the Big 12 title game; the Horned Frogs rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat the Wildcats 38-28 on Oct. 22.

The Trojans, which rose two spots to No. 4 after losses by Ohio State and LSU, are 11-1 and can avenge their lone loss when they face No. 11 Utah in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game. Utah beat visiting USC 43-42 on Oct. 15.

Ohio State (11-1) fell to No. 5 following its first loss of the season. Alabama (10-2), Tennessee (10-2), Penn State (10-2), Clemson (10-2) and Kansas State (9-3) round out the top 10.

The full rankings are below:

1. Georgia
2. Michigan
3. TCU
4. Southern California
5. Ohio State
6. Alabama
7. Tennessee
8. Penn State
9. Clemson
10. Kansas State
11. Utah
12. Washington
13. Florida State
14. LSU
15. Oregon State
16. Oregon
17. UCLA
18. Tulane
19. South Carolina
20. Texas
21. Notre Dame
22. UCF
23. North Carolina
24. Mississippi State
25. NC State

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive back Mike Sainristil (0) celebrates after knocking the ball away from Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover (8) on a play in the end zone in the fourth quarter of their game at Ohio Stadium.

Osu22um Kwr 55

Michigan up to No. 2 behind Georgia in AP Top 25

Michigan rose to No. 2 and Southern California cracked the top four in Sunday’s Associated Press Top 25 poll after big rivalry wins.

Georgia held on to the No. 1 spot for the eighth straight week and the 11th time this season, earning 58 of the 63 first-place votes.

The Wolverines got the other five votes following a 45-23 win Saturday at Ohio State, with the Buckeyes slipping three spots to No. 5.

No. 3 TCU and No. 4 USC both moved up one slot, staking out their spots ahead of the College Football Playoff rankings to be released on Tuesday.

The Horned Frogs hammered Iowa State 62-14, while the Trojans earned a 38-27 triumph over Notre Dame.

Following Ohio State, the rest of the Top 10 features Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State, Washington and Clemson.

LSU and Oregon each fell five places to Nos. 11 and 15, respectively. The Fighting Irish and North Carolina tumbled six spots each to Nos. 19 and 24, respectively.

No. 23 UTSA joined the Top 25 for the first time this season and No. 20 South Carolina and No. 25 Mississippi State both rejoined the poll.

Ole Miss, Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina dropped out of the rankings.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Kayshon Boutte (7) and head coach Brian Kelly celebrate after they beat the Florida Gators  at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

LSU up to No. 5 as CFP rankings’ top four remain unchanged

Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU occupied the first four positions of the College Football Playoff rankings for the third straight week, with two-loss LSU claiming the No. 5 spot in the newest edition of the rankings Tuesday.

LSU and Southern California each moved up one spot to Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. Alabama, Clemson, Oregon and Tennessee rounded out the top 10. Tennessee dropped five spots after its surprise 63-38 loss to South Carolina that featured a torn ACL to the Vols’ Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, Hendon Hooker.

USC beat then-No. 16 UCLA in a 48-45 thriller Saturday, improving the Trojans’ record to 10-1.

USC’s only loss came in October on the road at Utah, currently ranked No. 14, 43-42. But LSU (9-2) has wins over Ole Miss and Alabama, which were ranked in the top seven nationally at the times of the games.

“There’s reasons for USC to be at 5. There’s reasons for LSU to be at 5,” CFP chairman Boo Corrigan said in an ESPN interview. “As we looked at it, (LSU’s) wins over Alabama and Mississippi carried the day more so than (USC’s) wins over UCLA and Oregon State. … The good win that (USC) had on Saturday was 48-45. I think some of the members of the committee, as we looked at it, wanted to see a little bit more from their defense, as well as the overall strength of schedule from LSU.”

Each top-four team stayed in place after a nail-biting week. Georgia went on the road and beat Kentucky 16-6; Ohio State rallied from a halftime deficit to top Maryland 43-30; and Michigan and TCU needed last-second field goals to beat Illinois and Baylor, respectively.

Second-ranked Ohio State hosts No. 3 Michigan on Saturday.

The quartet are the only four unbeaten teams left in FBS.

1. Georgia
2. Ohio State
3. Michigan
4. TCU
5. LSU
6. Southern California
7. Alabama
8. Clemson
9. Oregon
10. Tennessee
11. Penn State
12. Kansas State
13. Washington
14. Utah
15. Notre Dame
16. Florida State
17. North Carolina
18. UCLA
19. Tulane
20. Ole Miss
21. Oregon State
22. UCF
23. Texas
24. Cincinnati
25. Louisville

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Darwin Barlow (22) celebrates his touchdown scored against the UCLA Bruins with offensive lineman Bobby Haskins (70) during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

USC lands in Top 5 of AP poll; Georgia, Ohio State still 1-2

Welcome back to the club, Southern California.

The Trojans reached No. 5 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, released Sunday, marking their first appearance in the Top 5 since hitting No. 4 in September 2017. They jumped two spots after an epic 48-45 victory over crosstown rival UCLA on Saturday night.

The top four remained unchanged, with Georgia receiving 62 of 63 first-place votes to stay atop the poll. No. 2 Ohio State earned the other first-place vote and was followed by Michigan and TCU. All four programs are 11-0, but Michigan and TCU both needed last-minute field goals to stay undefeated.

Following USC were LSU, Clemson, Alabama, Tennessee and Oregon to round out the Top 10.

Tennessee dropped four spots after Saturday’s stunning 63-38 loss to South Carolina, in which the Gamecocks scored the most points by an unranked team against a Top 5 team in the history of the poll, according to the Associated Press.

The Volunteers weren’t alone with their precipitous fall.

With losses Saturday, UCF plunged eight spots to No. 25. Ole Miss slipped six spots to No. 20 and North Carolina fell five places to 18.

The week’s big climbers were Notre Dame, up five slots to No. 13, as well as two teams that rose four spots — Kansas State (No. 15) and Florida State (No. 16).

Out of the poll this week was Oklahoma State, replaced by Big 12 rival Texas at No. 24.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) throws a pass against the Mississippi State Bulldogs that would result in a touchdown during the first quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Georgia pushing for perfection at Kentucky

Top-ranked Georgia draws one more serious obstacle prior to the SEC championship game Saturday when it travels to Kentucky.

The Bulldogs certainly didn’t have a letdown last week after polishing off then-No. 1 Tennessee 27-13 on Nov. 5. They scored on the first play of the second half to take control of a 45-19 win at Mississippi State.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart, whose team seeks to defend last year’s national title, says it has kept working for ways to be better than their opposition.

“Can you do what you do better than the people in your profession on a daily basis and not get bored with monotony? It’s hard to sustain anything in life, in your career, whatever it is,” he said. “If you want to be the best sportswriter, you want to be the best broadcaster, you got to do it better than the other people in your profession.

“You got to do that by recreating yourself, by consistently outworking someone, and sometimes people get comfortable. We’re trying our best to be at our best. The challenge is, how do you do that better than the team you’re up against?”

The Bulldogs (10-0, 7-0) have demonstrated that consistency, aside from sloppy wins over Kent State and at Missouri. They’ve outscored opponents by 29 points per game with a top 10 offense and a top 5 defense.

Stetson Bennett boasts career-bests for completion percentage (67.6) and yards (2,895) with at least four games left in his season. And he’s not sacrificed mistakes for it, either, tossing only five interceptions in 330 attempts.

On top of that, Georgia spreads the wealth. Nine different receivers have at least 10 catches and six different players have rushed for more than 100 yards. It hasn’t escaped the notice of Kentucky coach Mark Stoops.

“We all understand it’s a real challenge,” he said. “It’s a team that’s very deep and very physical.”

A top 10 team going into October, last week’s stunning 24-21 loss to a Vanderbilt squad that entered the day with a 26-game SEC losing streak knocked Kentucky clear out of the College Football Playoff rankings.

Kentucky was outgained 448-322 by the Commodores. Its offensive line surrendered four sacks and quarterback Will Levis, who some believe is a first round NFL draft pick, threw for only 109 yards on 11 of 23 accuracy with an interception.

It was the kind of performance that raises many more questions than it provides answers and Stoops understands it.

“Under extreme, extreme pressure your habits are going to come straight to the surface and obviously I haven’t created enough good habits with this unit, with this team,” he said. “We do have a very good team. We have to play better in certain situations.”

One bright spot last week was Chris Rodriguez, who rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. The fifth-year senior has rushed for 733 yards despite missing the first four games.

The Bulldogs own a 61-12 advantage in the all-time series, winning the last 12 matchups.

–Field Level Media

Oregon's Kris Hutson remains in the end zone after the team's loss against Washington Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

2022-11-14--oregon loss

Georgia still No. 1, Oregon slides in new CFP rankings

The top five teams remained unchanged, and Oregon slipped out of the top 10 as the third College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night.

Georgia remained No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Michigan and TCU. All four are 10-0. Tennessee (9-1) remained fifth.

Oregon (8-2) slid from sixth to 12th after losing 37-34 to Washington last Saturday. Washington moved up from 25th to 17th thanks to that win.

Georgia had ascended from No. 3 to No. 1 last week after beating Tennessee 27-13. Then the Bulldogs moved to 7-0 in the Southeastern Conference play with a 45-19 win at Mississippi State on Saturday.

Ohio State (7-0 Big Ten) has held the second spot in all three weeks of the rankings. The Buckeyes and Michigan (7-0 Big Ten) play their annual Big Game on Nov. 26 in Columbus, Ohio.

TCU, which moved up three spots last week, stayed steady at No. 4 after holding on to beat Texas 17-10 on Saturday. Texas, which had been 18th, dropped out of the rankings.

“You’re looking for improvement during the course of the year,” Boo Corrigan, the CFP committee chairman, said of TCU, in a televised ESPN interview.

No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Southern California, No. 8 Alabama and No. 9 Clemson all moved up a spot as Oregon dropped. Utah rounded out the top 10 with a jump from No. 13.

Southern California demolished Colorado 55-17 on Friday.

“They’ve continued to win games,” Corrigan told ESPN. “They have the one loss in Utah, in a really emotional (43-42) game, if you remember back to that game. That’s the one loss they have, the one blemish they have.”

The full rankings:
1. Georgia
2. Ohio State
3. Michigan
4. TCU
5. Tennessee
6. LSU
7. Southern California
8. Alabama
9. Clemson
10. Utah
11. Penn State
12. Oregon
13. North Carolina
14. Mississippi
15. Kansas State
16. UCLA
17. Washington
18. Notre Dame
19. Florida State
20. UCF
21. Tulane
22. Oklahoma State
23. Oregon State
24. NC State
25. Cincinnati

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Michigan Wolverines cheerleader celebrates after a touchdown in the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia No. 1 in AP Top 25 for ninth week; top 5 unchanged

The top five teams in the Associated Press Top 25 poll remained unchanged from last week, with Georgia still a dominant No. 1 choice.

The Bulldogs received 62 of 63 votes in the latest poll released Sunday, with No. 2 Ohio State garnering the only other first-place vote. Defending champion Georgia sits atop the poll for the ninth time this season.

The four top teams — No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 TCU — all moved to 10-0 with victories on Saturday. No. 5 Tennessee is 9-1, its only loss to Georgia.

Rounding out the Top 10 are LSU, Southern California, Alabama, Clemson and Utah.

TCU squeaked out a 17-10 win at Texas, while Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and Tennessee won their conference games by a combined margin of 201-60.

Pac-12 programs Oregon and UCLA, both in the Top 10 last week, plummeted following losses on Saturday. The Ducks fell six spots to No. 12 and the Bruins dropped seven places to No. 16 following upsets.

Washington, ranked No. 24 last week, climbed nine spots after its 37-34 defeat of Oregon.

Moving back into the Top 25 were No. 22 Cincinnati, No. 24 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Oregon State. Making its season debut on the list is No. 23 Coastal Carolina (9-1) following its 26-23 win over Southern Miss.

Dropping out of the poll were NC State, Texas, Liberty and Illinois.

The updated College Football Playoff rankings will be unveiled Tuesday night. Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU were the top four in last week’s rankings.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) runs the ball againstMississippi State Bulldogs safety Collin Duncan (19) during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Georgia thumps Mississippi State to clinch SEC East again

Top-ranked Georgia clinched the SEC East Division title with a 45-19 victory over host Mississippi State on Saturday in Starkville, Miss.

Stetson Bennett threw for 289 yards on 25-for-37 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions and added a rushing touchdown for Georgia (10-0, 7-0 SEC). It’s Georgia’s fifth SEC East Division crown in six seasons.

Ladd McConkey had five catches for 71 yards and a score, as well as a 70-yard touchdown run, while Brock Bowers had five receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown. Darnell Washington had five catches for 60 yards and a score.

In the SEC title game, Georgia will face No. 7 LSU (8-2, 6-1), which clinched the West Division title earlier in the day, in Atlanta on Dec. 3.

Will Rogers went 29-for-51 passing for 261 yards and a touchdown, while Rufus Harvey had six receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown for Mississippi State (6-3, 3-4).

With Georgia leading 17-12 entering the second half, McConkey took a pitch and raced 70 yards for a 24-12 lead on the second play of the third quarter.

Bennett’s 17-yard touchdown pass to McConkey pushed the lead to 31-12 with 9:19 left in the third, before Rogers’ 6-yard scoring strike to Harvey trimmed the lead to 31-19 with 5:17 left in the period.

Bennett’s 2-yard scoring toss to Washington extended the lead to 38-19 with 14:55 left in the game, and Kendall Milton’s 34-yard touchdown run capped the scoring with 2:04 left.

Bennett’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Bowers capped a nine-play, 73-yard drive that gave Georgia a 7-0 lead with 9:50 left in the first quarter.

Georgia pushed its lead to 10-0 on Jack Podlesny’s 28-yard field goal with 11:57 left in the first half.

Massimo Biscardi’s 25-yard field goal made it 10-3 with 5:01 to go in the second quarter, but Bennett’s 4-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to 17-3 with 2:29 left in the half.

After Biscardi’s 36-yard field goal made it 17-6 with 51 seconds left in the second quarter, Georgia was forced to punt with 19 seconds left in the half. Zavion Thomas fielded the punt on a bounce and raced down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown to make it 17-12 with three seconds left in the half after a failed two-point conversion.

–Field Level Media

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) scores a touchdown during the first half of a NCAA college football game between Tennessee and Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022.

News Joshua L Jones

Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, TCU top 4 in latest CFP rankings

Georgia soared to the No. 1 spot in the second edition of this season’s College Football Playoff rankings after defeating last week’s No. 1, Tennessee.

The Bulldogs were followed by Ohio State, Michigan and TCU in the top four of the new rankings, released Tuesday night. Those are the only four remaining unbeaten teams in FBS college football.

Georgia soundly beat visiting Tennessee 27-13 last Saturday. The Bulldogs, the defending national champions, were No. 3 in the initial CFP rankings. They are 9-0 (6-0 Southeastern Conference) and 27-1 in their past 28 games dating to 2020.

Ohio State (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) claimed the second spot in the rankings for the second straight week, while Michigan (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) moved up two spots as the teams remain on a collision course for their annual Big Game on Nov. 26 in Columbus, Ohio.

TCU, also 9-0, benefited from losses by Clemson and Alabama, which were both ranked ahead of the Horned Frogs last week, to move up three spots.

“They’ve got six wins over teams that are .500 or better,” NC State athletic director Boo Corrigan, the new CFP chairman, said in an ESPN interview. “They’re averaging 43 points a game. As you know, we value wins. And they continue to find a way to win and not give up those points in the second half, and it really was impactful to the committee.”

Tennessee fell to No. 5. Oregon is No. 6 after its eighth straight win following a Week 1 blowout loss to Georgia. And LSU moved up three spots to No. 7 after the Tigers beat Alabama 32-31 in an overtime classic.

“We’re looking at the overall body of work, where it’s not about one game, it’s about what have they done throughout the entire season,” Corrigan said.

Southern California, Alabama and Clemson completed the top 10. Clemson was shut out for three quarters en route to a 35-14 road loss to Notre Dame. Unranked in the initial poll, the Fighting Irish appeared at No. 20 Tuesday.

The full rankings are below:

1. Georgia
2. Ohio State
3. Michigan
4. TCU
5. Tennessee
6. Oregon
7. LSU
8. Southern California
9. Alabama
10. Clemson
11. Ole Miss
12. UCLA
13. Utah
14. Penn State
15. North Carolina
16. NC State
17. Tulane
18. Texas
19. Kansas State
20. Notre Dame
21. Illinois
22. UCF
23. Florida State
24. Kentucky
25. Washington

–Field Level Media