Somehow, it is always about Alabama. When Alabama wins, it’s about Alabama. Even when Alabama loses, putting itself on the cusp of missing out on the College Football Playoff for the first time, it’s even more about Alabama.
The most polarizing team in college football is also the sport’s most discussed, and don’t think for a second that’s going to change in the wake of events at Bryant-Denny Stadium last Saturday.
This second playoff rankings of the year will be released on Tuesday evening and it’s going to be about Alabama again, with the Crimson Tide seemingly destined for a No. 4 spot that it has a mightily slim chance of holding onto.
That 46-41 defeat against LSU put the program’s hopes of continuing its unbroken playoff run on life support, while simultaneously making it the team no one can stop talking about.
Sometimes, when something is about to happen that is so completely unusual, we have a hard time accepting that it could be real. There’s still a strong line of thinking that believes ‘Bama has a realistic shot at landing in the top four when the final selections come in on Dec. 8. But if the field remains consistent the rest of the way, then the unthinkable could become reality.
“Pure playoff privilege still exists and Alabama is the poster child for that,” FOX college football analyst Tim Brando said. “Don’t think for one minute Alabama is out of the hunt; they’re not. What are you going to do, committee? What are you going to do? If LSU fans think they’re through with Alabama, think again.”
Unless the playoff committee’s model goes into a crimson-colored meltdown, it will, at the very least, take a significant series of events to give Alabama any chance at all. First in order is that Nick Saban’s team must win out, with its only real remaining test coming at Iron Bowl rival Auburn on Nov. 30.
If we safely assume LSU is not going to lose twice to unranked opposition, Alabama is out of the hunt for the SEC West — and the overall SEC title. Therefore, while those with Tuscaloosa loyalty may not be too fond of LSU head coach Ed Orgeron right now, especially following his explosive celebratory locker room rant, they still want him to run the table — effectively taking Georgia out of the mix.
They also want Ohio State to keep on rolling, which would ensure one (and only one) playoff candidate from the Big Ten.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 11, 2019
Alabama has a great “loss” on its resume, but precious few quality wins and a generally weak strength of schedule. So next, the Tide would need two of three things to happen.
A defeat for Clemson, unlikely as it is, would seriously help. Then, either the Big 12 champion or the Pac-12 champion would need to take another loss. As things stand, an undefeated Baylor winning the Big 12 would be guaranteed a spot, while a 12-1 Oklahoma in the same situation would be virtually assured a place in the final four-team showdown to crown a champion.
Likewise, if Oregon was to remain with just a single loss and win the Pac-12, it would also be strongly tipped to be ranked ahead of Alabama, given the weighting conference championships receive … or are supposed to.
There’s a lot that needs to happen. If it wasn’t Alabama, no one would even be talking about it. They’d be out of the race, without question. When Brando mentioned playoff privilege, he was talking about what every CFB fan knows to be true: if there’s any team that will get the benefit of the doubt, it will be Alabama.
“Alabama has the brand. It has the tradition, the coach and the clout — it even has the respect of the College Football Playoff selection committee despite a weak schedule,” wrote ESPN’s Heather Dinich. “But for the first time in six seasons, the Crimson Tide might not have what it takes to finish in the top four.”
After their big win over Penn State, what will @GopherFootball‘s CFP ranking be? 🤔
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 11, 2019
The funny thing is, there are some truly fascinating plot lines out there. LSU and Ohio State are slugging it out for the No. 1 overall spot, while Baylor and Minnesota have pieced together undefeated seasons that no one saw coming and still have their fate within their own hands.
But we’re still talking about Alabama.
Saturday’s result has led some to speculate that Saban may not be long for college football coaching. He’s 68 now and has been in the job since 2007.
“I think Nick Saban does think about retirement now and I think he is closer to it than anyone in the media would acknowledge,” FS1’s Colin Cowherd said on The Herd. “I’m not saying he is going to retire. [But] after [the season] if Nick said, ‘It’s been a great run. I’m done and I’m going to make $5 million in television’, I would be like, ‘I get it.’”
Cowherd cited several reasons as to why Saban might go, including his age, the impending departure for the NFL of star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the availability of lucrative television jobs, the minefield of the transfer portal and difficulty in keeping his best assistants.
For now, Saban is going nowhere; certainly not when an opportunity to play for another national championship remains, however slight. Of all the teams in the country, Alabama is still the one being discussed, debated, and yes — feared.
LSU might have rolled over the Tide last weekend, and deservedly so, but neither the Tigers, nor the rest of college football, can shake them from the narrative just yet.
“I think Nick Saban is closer to retirement than anyone in the media is willing to acknowledge.”@ColinCowherd breaks down 7 reasons why his time at Alabama could be nearing an end ⬇️pic.twitter.com/GPvNFXuCP5
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 12, 2019