Tell the Truth: LSU is in the playoffs even if it loses to Georgia

Coach Ed Orgeron and quarterback Joe Burrow will lead LSU into Saturday's SEC championship game with Georgia.Chuck Cook/USA Today

Tony Barnhart

Among the many unique features of Ed Orgeron’s LSU football program is “Tell the Truth Monday.”

That’s when Orgeron talks to his team and lays out the complete, unvarnished truth about the week ahead. He pulls no punches about where his team stands—good or bad.

But there is one truth that Orgeron, a leading candidate for the SEC Coach and National Coach of the year, did not want to address on Sunday when he met with reporters by teleconference.

And it is this: No. 2 LSU (12-0) is in the College Football Playoff even if it loses Saturday’s SEC championship game with No. 4 Georgia (11-1).

Yes, you read that right.

LSU, featuring the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense (48.7 points per game) led by the almost-certain Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Joe Burrow, will be favored by about a touchdown in the 4 p.m. game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on CBS

If LSU wins the Tigers, who are going after their first national championship since 2007, will be no worse than the No. 2 seed behind Ohio State (which will play Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship) when the CFP semifinals are played on Dec. 28.

Georgia, who’s only loss was a stunner to South Carolina (24-21 2 OT) back on Oct. 12, will be playing in the SEC Championship game for the third straight year. If the Bulldogs win they would be going to the College Football Playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

But even if LSU loses to finish 12-1, it appears the Tigers’ resume, which includes wins over No. 5 Alabama, No. 11 Florida, No.15 Auburn plus a road win at un-ranked Texas, would be good enough to get in over teams like a 12-1 Oklahoma or a 12-1 Utah.

Coach O wanted no part of that discussion.

“That thought process would never enter our minds,” said Orgeron in his third full season as head coach. “We’ve told the team that we have to finish the season and see where we are ranked. None of that stuff matters. We have to win this game.”

If both LSU and Georgia get into the playoffs, it would mark the second time since 2017 that the SEC has placed two teams in the national semi-finals. That year Alabama beat Georgia in overtime in Atlanta for the national championship.

The projections below assume some things:

**--Ohio State will stay at No. 1 when the new CFP rankings are released on Tuesday. Then the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship. And if Ohio State loses to Wisconsin the Buckeyes would still probably get in and the whole playoff would be a mess.

**--No. 3 Clemson beats Virginia in Charlotte for the ACC championship.

**--No. 7 Oklahoma beats Baylor in Dallas for the Big 12 championship. If it does I’m predicting the Sooners will jump over No. 6 Utah, which is playing Oregon for the Pac-12 championship, into the playoffs. If Baylor wins there will be a big argument.

If both LSU and Georgia get in, the Big 12 champ and the Pac-12 champ get left out and the screams for an eight-team playoffs will once again echo throughout the land.

Folks, it will all be over at Noon on Sunday when the official pairings are released. Until then, let the arguments continue. Here are the projections:


Semifinals, Dec. 28

No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, Peach Bowl (Atlanta)

No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 Clemson, Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.)


Semifinals Dec. 28

No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 LSU, Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.)

No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Georgia, Peach Bowl, (Atlanta)

JAN. 13

CFP Championship game, New Orleans


Tony Barnhart