UGA Football

Top Dog: Georgia enters first College Football Playoff poll at No. 1

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Georgia running back Sony Michel spoke about the importance of beating Florida.
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Georgia running back Sony Michel spoke about the importance of beating Florida.

In the only poll that truly matters, Georgia is No. 1.

The College Football Playoff selection committee released its first top 25 of the 2017 season, with the Bulldogs claiming the top spot. This is a departure from the AP and coaches polls, which both have Georgia ranked No. 2 in the nation.

This is the first time Georgia has appeared in the top spot of the College Football Playoff rankings, let alone the top five. The highest spot the Bulldogs have ever been in the College Football Playoff rankings was No. 9 in the 14th week of the 2014 season.

Filing behind Georgia in the first playoff rankings are No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Clemson. Georgia holds a 20-19 win over Notre Dame, which occurred in the second week of the season.

Georgia did not appear in the College Football Playoff rankings at all in 2015 or 2016.

In the previous three years of the College Football Playoff, two teams that opened No. 1 in the first rankings eventually earned entry into the tournament. In 2014, Mississippi State opened the playoff rankings at the top but eventually fell out of the top four. Clemson (2015) and Alabama (2016) opened the following two seasons No. 1 and were able to make the playoff.

With four games left in the regular season, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart downplayed the significance of the early College Football Playoff rankings.

“It just matters how we finish,” Smart said.

The last time Georgia was ranked No. 1 in any poll was in 2008. The Bulldogs were the preseason No. 1 team in both the AP and coaches polls before falling back a spot after the first week of the season.

Smart has harped on his team about not buying into where it is ranked, regardless if it’s the playoff, AP or coaches poll. He has had plenty of experience with being a part of highly ranked teams, considering he was at Alabama for nine seasons.

Smart borrowed a phrase from his former boss, head coach Nick Saban, when asked how positive press is tempered at Alabama.

“They talked about rat poison a lot and things like that,” Smart said. “We don’t really have to address it if you confront it from the beginning, so the rankings that have been coming out up until this point — the AP ones — are the same thing. It’s just a distraction, so it is just a matter of who can manage it best and which team is mature enough to handle it because it has zero outcome on performance on Saturday. It’s only a distractive measure that we have to contend with.”

Smart said he didn’t address the playoff rankings show with the team and that the leadership committee handles those sort of matters. Outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said the players aren’t spending much attention to where the program is ranked.

“We can’t afford to look at the rankings,” Bellamy said. “We have to focus on South Carolina.”

The players will certainly be aware of where Georgia is ranked by the end of the night given the presence social media plays in their lives. But as inside linebacker Reggie Carter said, the Bulldogs’ ranking isn’t a pressing matter to them.

“Even if it’s there we just scroll by it. It’s not important,” Carter said. “What is important are the games we play and the upcoming opponents. We try to stay away from it. That stuff will take care of itself on its own.”

Following Tuesday’s practice, and before the rankings show, Smart was asked if he would watch where Georgia stood in the first poll.

“No,” Smart said. “I’m going to be up here ‘til 11 watching South Carolina.”