12-team playoff a boon for SEC, but not Alabama football and Georgia | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer
USA TODAY NETWORK
View Comments

This the "Topp Rope," a twice-weekly SEC football column from the USA TODAY Network's Blake Toppmeyer.

If the 12-team College Football Playoff were in place this season, we’d be talking about Arkansas as a playoff contender after the Razorbacks’ 31-24 win over Cincinnati on Saturday.

For much of the SEC, this expanded playoff will be a boon.

Programs like Arkansas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and others that never made the four-team playoff will find themselves in contention more frequently in a format where as many as seven SEC teams will be eligible for selection, and four or even five SEC representatives could become standard.

This expanded format, set to debut no later than 2026, will pose a hurdle for the SEC’s top teams, though.

GOODBREAD:College Football Playoff expansion makes room for the nerd

TOPPMEYER:Here comes Josh Heupel's chance to prove Tennessee isn't fooling around

OPINION:Billy Napier's rebuild at Florida sure is coming along quickly

In particular, the 12-team bracket would work against an SEC vs. SEC championship – in other words, Alabama vs. Georgia in the 2017 and 2021 seasons.

Based on Saturday’s dominant performances, Georgia and Alabama are favorites to reach the national championship once again.

But in a 12-team playoff bracket, four teams will earn a first-round bye. Only conference champions are eligible for a bye. Last season, Alabama would have been seeded No. 1 and earned a bye, while Georgia would have been seeded fifth and would have played a first-round game.

Under that format, Alabama and Georgia would have been in the same half of the bracket and placed on a collision course for the semifinals – not the championship game.

The selection committee’s hands will be tied.

Even if the committee believes a conference runner-up is the nation’s second- or third-best team – Georgia was seeded third last season – that team cannot be seeded any higher than fifth in the 12-team format.

More than ever, conference champions will be valued.

The SEC and Big Ten will gobble up bids in the 12-team playoff era, and the SEC isn’t likely to lose its place of power.

[ WANT MORE OPINIONS FROM BLAKE TOPPMEYER?: Subscribe to the SEC Unfiltered newsletter for an exclusive column each week ]

But if you enjoyed seeing SEC vs. SEC in the national championship (few outside the South enjoyed that), then relish the four-team playoff while it lasts, because two teams from the same conference reaching the national championship will become more of a challenge in the expanded format.

'Same Georgia' will be a problem for opponents

Former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix can take one solace from his two-interception debut at Oregon: He’ll never have to face Georgia again.

The Bulldogs beat Nix for the fourth time, this time in a 49-3 Duck hunt.

“It was same Georgia,” Nix told reporters afterward, when asked whether the Bulldogs’ defense featured new wrinkles. “It’s just tough to move the ball on those guys.”

Same-old-Georgia will remain daunting for most opponents.

Billy Brew tastes good for Florida

Anthony Richardson’s dual-threat dominance allowed for Florida’s 29-26 upset of Utah to usher in the Billy Napier era, but the Gators also impressed with timely physicality.

Transfer running back Montrell Johnson Jr. offered a bruising backfield presence, and Brenton Cox Jr. and Ventrell Miller set the tone on defense. The Gators delivered two critical second-half red-zone stops. Defensive depth remains a concern, and Florida softened against the run after halftime, but, when it mattered most, Florida outmuscled a physical opponent.

The Fun ‘N’ Gun this is not, but the 90,777 at the Swamp sure enjoyed their first taste of Billy’s Brew.

You know who didn’t enjoy it? Fans of SEC teams who were counting on a down year from the Gators.

Alabama avoids ‘rat poison’

Like a Garth Brooks concert, Nick Saban played the hits Thursday when he bemoaned the media’s “rat poison” for Alabama.

Too much preseason praise for Alabama, Saban griped, and too much chatter about a Week 2 game against Texas before Alabama played its opener.

Well, we can get back to discussing the Texas game now that Alabama dispatched Utah State 55-0. For all of Saban’s warnings, USU looked as overmatched as us media hacks expected.

The best signs for Alabama?

The Tide pass protected well – Bryce Young was sacked once – and receivers Traeshon Holden and Jermaine Burton combined for 10 receptions and four touchdowns.

If Alabama’s O-line holds up and the receiving corps keeps giving Young open targets, then Saban will have to line his stomach for the poisonous praise coming for his Tide.

Wise approach from Lane Kiffin

Southern Cal transfer Jaxson Dart earned the first crack at replacing Matt Corral at Ole Miss. After a mixed-bag performance in the Rebels’ 28-10 win against Troy, Lane Kiffin will start Luke Altmyer against Central Arkansas.

It’s not intended as a permanent demotion for Dart. Rather, it indicates how tightly contested this quarterback competition remains. Kiffin is smart to take advantage of a soft September schedule to get a full evaluation of his quarterbacks.

Regardless of who’s starting at quarterback, this will be a run-oriented team. TCU transfer Zach Evans is better than any running back Ole Miss had on last season’s 10-win team.

Don’t ignore Will Rogers

Young started his bid for a Heisman Trophy repeat in fine form with five touchdown passes, and quarterbacks Hendon Hooker, KJ Jefferson, Stetson Bennett IV and Richardson affirmed why they’re Heisman dark horses.

Overlooked, though, is Mississippi State’s Will Rogers.

Unfairly labeled a system quarterback, I maintain that Rogers would thrive in any offense. He threw for a career-high 450 yards and five touchdowns in Mississippi State’s 49-23 win against Memphis.

Rogers earning serious Heisman consideration remains a longshot, but if he stays healthy, don’t be surprised if he throws for 5,000 yards.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Also, check out his podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or access exclusive columns via the SEC Unfiltered newsletter

View Comments