Johathon LedBetter, a senior defensive end, holds up his hands to signal the start of the fourth quarter during the second half of the SEC championship between Alabama and Georgia on Saturday, December 1, 2018, at Mercedez Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide beat the Bulldogs 35-28. (Photo/Christina R. Matacotta, crmatacotta@gmail.com)

ATLANTA — Kirby Smart was adamant in his response when asked if Georgia should still make the College Football Playoff after its 35-28 loss to Alabama on Saturday.

“It boils down to one thing,” Smart said. “Do you want the four best teams in or not? It's that simple.”

Georgia came closer than anyone else this season to beating No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. Nonetheless, when the playoff semifinalists are announced tomorrow, it is likely the Bulldogs will still be left out.

A two-loss team has never made the playoff since its inception in 2014. Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame are all lined up to retain their rankings at the one, two and three spots. Oklahoma is poised to take over the No. 4 spot with a 12-1 record after a win in the Big 12 championship game on Saturday.

Yet, after Saturday’s SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, it’s hard not to at least consider Georgia as one of the four best teams in the country.

“I just don't think any other team could go toe-to-toe with Alabama like we did,” junior safety J.R. Reed said.

Alabama’s smallest margin of victory going into Saturday’s game was 22 points. Against Georgia, the Crimson Tide trailed for much of the game before pulling out a seven-point victory in the final minutes.

“You can't say we're not one of the best teams in college football,” senior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said. “Just watch the tape. If they watch it, they should put us in.”

Smart offered a proposition to help settle the debate of whether Georgia should be selected.

“Give that coach across the sideline a vote who he doesn’t want to play,” Smart said. “He'll start with us. I promise you, you don't want to play us.”

In his postgame press conference, Alabama head coach Nick Saban agreed.

“I think based on what I've seen, they're one of the four best teams in the country,” Saban said. “I also said I don't want to play them again, which is the ultimate compliment, I think, that I can give them…If you lose by seven points to the No. 1 team, you shouldn't slip too far.”

This particular scenario poses an interesting question regarding the playoff: should it be the four best teams that make the playoff, or the four most deserving? It’s a question that’s been debated often and never truly answered. The College Football Playoff selection committee’s decision on Sunday may provide some clarity.

The reality is, it’s unlikely a two-loss team will make it into the top four. Georgia is likely bound for the Sugar Bowl against Texas on Jan. 1. For a team that advanced to the national championship game last season and hung with the No. 1 team in its conference championship game, that result could be a tough pill to swallow.

“If we get in, OK. If we don't, OK. We got to move on, and we got to get ready for the next team,” Reed said. “My motivation's always to win, so if we go to playoffs, then I want to win it all, and if we don't, whoever we play I want to win against them.”

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