Tuesday March 5th, 2024 9:01AM

Kirby Smart says 'no question' Georgia belongs in College Football Playoff after loss to Alabama

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia coach Kirby Smart challenged College Football Playoff selection committee members to believe what they see when judging his No. 1 Bulldogs following the end of their 29-game winning streak.

Smart also reminded the committee that in the CFP era, no team at the top of the playoff ranking has fallen out of the playoff by losing a conference championship game.

“When you talk about the four best teams, watch the game,” Smart said after Georgia's 27-24 loss to No. 8 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Saturday. “Go ask the NFL talent evaluators. Go ask NFL scouts. It’s about the best teams.”

Smart said he has “no question” Georgia is “one of the best four teams, 100 percent” as he hopes his team still has a chance to become the first team in the poll era to win three straight national titles.

Bulldogs quarterback Carson Beck said it won't be easy to watch the committee announce the four-team playoff field on Sunday.

“I’m super proud of these guys and obviously to come into this game and not, you know, finish the way that we wanted to and kind of leave the destiny of our team in someone else’s hands rather than us handling it ourselves, you know, that’s hard,” Beck said. “At this point, it’s out of our control. And, you know, we fought hard enough throughout the season. You know, we showed that, you know, we were really a dominant team.”

Beck completed 21 of 29 passes for 243 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. The junior led the Bulldogs on a quick touchdown drive on their first possession, but Georgia was scoreless the rest of the first half.

Smart, perhaps attempting to influence the playoff committee, said star tight end Brock Bowers and wide receiver Ladd McConkey were unable to practice the last two weeks while battling ankle injuries before returning to play against Alabama.

“This team is really special in terms of how they play and how they compete,” Smart said. “And they’ve been through a lot.”

Smart said CFP executive director Bill Hancock “said simply, ‘It’s the best four teams’” in the playoff.

“So if you go tell me somebody sitting in that committee room doesn’t think that Georgia team is one of the best four teams, I don’t know if they’re in the right profession because it’s a it’s a really good football team,” Smart said. “It’s a really talented football team and is a really balanced football team. So, you know, they have to make that decision. But it’s the best four teams and that’s critical.”

Smart acknowledged more than four teams will have a claim to be included in the playoff.

“I guess that does make it unique,” Smart said.

So, why Georgia?

“I think it’s the eye test,” Smart said, referencing Georgia's wins over four AP Top 25 teams: Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.

“I think you look at what we’ve done this season, to go on the road, play some on the road, the teams we beat, the teams that are in the top 20 that we were able to beat.”

The SEC is the only conference to have at least one team in each of the first nine playoffs, and the league has won six of the nine national titles. The SEC has had at least one team in the championship game each of the last years.

“Our teams in the playoff, look what they’ve done,” Smart said. “I mean, y’all tell me the record, the SEC teams in the playoffs. It’s pretty spectacular. I know. Twice, two of them ended up playing each other. So we’re the best teams, and do we want the best teams?”

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

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