Why USC fans should be rooting for Georgia to beat Tennessee in SEC showdown

This Saturday, USC hosts Cal in a late-night game which is certainly important, but doesn’t figure to be remotely close. The eyes of the nation will be focused not on the Pac-12, but on the titanic tussle between Tennessee and Georgia, two teams ranked in the top three of the initial College Football Playoff standings.

As Pac-12 teams, TCU, and Clemson all consider their chances of making the playoff, they are all wondering if it’s better for Tennessee or Georgia to win this game.

USC fans can relate to what Tennessee is doing this year. Like Tennessee, USC football has been mediocre and irrelevant for a long time. (Yes, we know it has been much longer for the Vols, but the experiences are still obviously similar.) This year, both programs have risen from the ashes. Josh Heupel has been absolutely brilliant, bringing a high-octane offense to Knoxville and transforming a program with elite quarterback play, something Tennessee had not focused on in previous coaching hires such as Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, and Jeremy Pruitt.

We at Trojans Wire congratulate the Vols on their season. We obviously see the similarities between UT and USC. Now is where we part company, however. It’s nothing personal, but USC needs Georgia to beat Tennessee this weekend.

We’ll explain why:

PLAYOFF MATH

USC making the playoff depends on the SEC getting only one team into the playoff. That’s the unavoidable reality. Clemson is likely to go unbeaten. The Ohio State-Michigan winner will get in. The SEC champion will get in. Those are three spots. USC could then get the fourth if the SEC doesn’t put two teams into the playoff. Start there when mapping out a USC playoff scenario.

ONE-BID SEC

So, what outcome offers the best chance for the SEC to get only one team into the playoff? It certainly isn’t Tennessee winning. This applies on two different levels.

ONE-LOSS GEORGIA

If Tennessee beats Georgia, we’re looking at a scenario in which Georgia finishes 11-1, with its only loss being to a top-three (maybe even No. 1) opponent. That’s exactly what will give the SEC a second team. Georgia would join Tennessee in the playoff. That doesn’t work well for USC.

THE ALABAMA FACTOR, PART ONE

The SEC getting only one team in the playoff would involve a scenario in which Alabama loses a second time, and more specifically, in which Alabama does not win the SEC championship.

Alabama finishing 12-1 as the SEC champion will obviously make the playoff. Alabama plus a 1-loss Tennessee or a 1-loss Georgia will give the SEC at least two playoff spots, maybe even three. USC simply cannot have Alabama go 12-1. The Tide must lose a second time, probably in the SEC title game.

THE ALABAMA FACTOR, PART TWO

If Tennessee beats Georgia, it will almost certainly go to the SEC Championship Game and play Alabama in Atlanta. If you were to consider which team – Tennessee or Georgia – has a better chance of beating Alabama in that game, it has to be Georgia.

Tennessee already beat Alabama, and barely so at home in Neyland Stadium. A rematch with Nick Saban, licking his chops and getting his guys amped up for a little revenge? C’mon, we all know how that movie is going to end. Georgia, on the other hand, wants to win the SEC title Alabama took from the Dawgs last year. In Atlanta, Georgia will have more fans, too.

If the Alabama 12-1 scenario is to be avoided, Georgia is the better choice in USC’s eyes.

GEORGIA THE WRECKING BALL

It’s very simple from a USC (and Pac-12) vantage point: Georgia can get Tennessee and Alabama out of the way. The SEC gets a 13-0 conference champion while Alabama loses a second time and Tennessee’s win over Alabama gets devalued ever so slightly. That’s how USC can get in.

OREGON ADDENDUM

Georgia winning out is also how Oregon can make the playoff. That 46-point loss to UGA was ugly, but if the Ducks are to have any case for the playoff, they need Alabama to lose a second time (the same as USC), and they need Georgia to look as great as it possibly can.

CONCLUSION

Again, it’s nothing personal, Vol Nation. We love what you’re doing under Josh Heupel because we can see so many of the same things happening under Lincoln Riley. Yet, if we’re going to make the playoff, we need all y’all to lose Between the Hedges. It’s just the way it is.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire