Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Sunday that he feels his team deserved to make the College Football Playoff, and empathized with Florida State, his team's opponent in the Capital One Orange Bowl, because the Seminoles got left out, too.
During an Orange Bowl Zoom call with both coaches, Smart was asked whether his team would be facing a "hornet's nest" in a highly motivated Seminoles team, which finished 13-0 but became the first undefeated Power 5 champion to finish outside the top four.
"I empathize with anybody that goes undefeated and doesn't get in," Smart said. "I personally feel like we deserved to be in. We've got a really good football team, and we're considered No. 1 in the country all year, then fail. We have a hornet's nest around here, too, of players that are disappointed. That works both ways.
"The good news is we got each other to go play. I know they'll be up for us and we'll be up for them. You worry a lot more when you have a matchup that they might not look forward to. I have learned that."
The defending national champions went into Saturday ranked No. 1 but lost to Alabama 27-24 in the SEC championship game and dropped to No. 6 in the final ranking. Florida State beat Louisville 16-6 in the ACC championship game and dropped one spot, from No. 4 to No. 5. Meanwhile, Texas and Alabama moved up in the rankings to No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.
Smart also pointed out that Georgia has felt the sting of finishing just outside the top four more times than it would like. Georgia and Ohio State have finished ranked fifth or sixth three times each, the two only programs to finish fifth or sixth multiple times. It previously happened to Georgia in 2018 and 2019, before the Bulldogs were finally able to get in -- and win the past two national championships in the process.
"I can't imagine it being undefeated," Smart said. "But it's tough when you finish fifth or sixth because there's always a case for being in it, and we've been there."
Both coaches were asked about whether they were looking forward even more to an expanded 12-team playoff next season because of the disappointment they felt Sunday.
"You look at this Georgia team -- I'm going to say it for Coach Smart -- you go undefeated throughout the regular season, you lose in the conference championship game by one score, and that be the end of your opportunity to win a national championship, it's hard," Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. "For us, we go undefeated throughout the season. We accomplished the things that we did. You try to teach players about response. You try to teach players about consistency, things that you want to see them grow and build in.
"Knowing that next year it will be an expanded opportunity when teams compete at this level that both of our programs have been able to accomplish this year, there will still be that avenue. But it is what it is this year. We can have our disappointments. I respect the opportunity we have. Of all the games that are out there in this bowl season, there's not one that will be more exciting or probably more anticipated than having these two teams."