ATLANTA — SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey believes that if Alabama and Tennessee, as well as LSU, should win Saturday’s SEC championship game, they should all be seriously considered for promotion to the college football playoffs.
The Tigers, 9-3 and No. 14 in the CFP, take on Georgia in the title game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. No. 6 Alabama (10-2) and No. 7 Tennessee (10-2) are outside of the current top 4, trailing No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 TCIU, No. 4 USC and No. 5 in the state of Ohio.
“I look at the rigor of our league and we have teams in 6th and 7th place that are worth considering and I’m confident they will be considered,” Sankey said. “I also respect Ohio State and the tough game against Michigan. Our teams had two close losses in both Alabama and Tennessee. I think these two teams are viable.
“If we’re talking about playoff considerations, I have a team that would have their best win of the year tomorrow if they win. It would have to be taken into account. We trusted the selection committee. We will continue to do so.”
Conference championship week is a time when athletic directors and commissioners begin campaigning for their own league teams in the run-up to CFP Selection Sunday. As expected, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren publicly threw his support behind the Buckeyes (11-1) this week, despite their regular season-ending loss to the Wolverines.
“Hopefully they get some help this weekend,” Warren tells SI. “They have played 46 1/2 football’s outstanding quarters out of 48 this season. They are clearly among the top four teams in the country. And you can make a strong case that Michigan could be the best team in the country.
College football heads into a somewhat disappointing championship weekend. Many pundits believe Michigan, Georgia and TCU — and their stacked resumes — are likely to advance to the playoffs even with a loss. For now, the last remaining spot will be occupied by the Trojans, who play Friday night’s Pac-12 title game against Utah. Ohio State (11-1), Alabama (10-2) and Tennessee (10-2) are the next three teams in the rankings. For a week there has been a heated debate over who, if any of the three, should replace USC should they lose.
Comparing CVs, Volunteers lead with three wins ahead of CFP Top 25 programs. Alabama and Ohio State have two each. The Vols are also the only team to have won two top 15 programs (LSU and Alabama). In the schedule strength metric, the Tide leads with the 28th hardest shale, followed by Tennessee (37th) and Ohio State (44th).
Sankey points out that the SEC has six teams in the CFP Top 25. The Big Ten has three.
“We trust the selection committee to make the assessment and know they understand that based on their ranking in the SEC, the number of ranked teams you need to play is six versus three in the Big Ten,” says Sankey. “There are a number of others that have entered the rankings. I think 10 of our 14 have been ranked, eight of them in the top 10. We have a tough league schedule that deserves consideration.”
In the eight years of its existence, no team has advanced to the CFP with two losses. LSU has three losses. The Tigers would be 10-3 if they upset 17-point favorites Georgia.
“We’re living in unprecedented times, aren’t we?” Says Sankey. “Every conference champion deserves attention, but at the top of that list is the SEC champion. Well, whether or not it’s possible to look at the bigger picture, that’s where the selection committee comes in. Three losses will be tough but the best win of the year after all the work certainly gets them talking .”
Coverage by Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated was used in this story.