Alabama was desperate. Alabama was brazen. Alabama was so desperate and brazen that it turned Nick Saban into a Saturday night lobbyist, sending him on media rounds to coach up America on why his Crimson Tide deserves to be in the College Football Playoff.
Have you ever seen a GOAT grovel on live TV? It was a bit jarring to behold.
“If we played any of those teams that are on the edge of getting in, would we be the underdogs or the favorite?” Saban asked on Fox at halftime of the Big Ten championship game—a provocative pulpit to give an SEC coach to take what sounded like a shot at Ohio State, among others. “You show vulnerability when you get beat badly at the end of the season. We played better at the end of the season.”
Make no mistake, the two-loss Tide do not deserve to be in the Playoff, no matter what the legendary guest lecturer says. Nor will they, unless the selection committee has a collective nervous breakdown Sunday morning. If the committee abandons all previous protocol and chooses teams based on Las Vegas point spreads and tradition, Bama has a chance.
This isn’t a hard call, no matter how much some have tried to turn it into one for ratings and web traffic purposes and conference bragging rights.
The four Playoff teams were in all likelihood set Saturday afternoon as soon as Max Duggan was dragged TCU into overtime in the Big 12 championship game. That close loss to a top-10 Kansas State team should be enough to get the Horned Frogs into the bracket. Georgia and Michigan already were locked, regardless of the result in the SEC and Big Ten games, respectively. USC was out, having been trampled Friday night and opening the back door for the Luckeyes to slink in.
The only two teams Saban is politicking against are Ohio State and TCU. He doesn’t have a case against either of them.
Ohio State has a better record than Alabama, 11–1 vs. 10–2. It has better wins (No. 8 Penn State and No. 21 Notre Dame) than the Crimson Tide (No. 20 Texas and No. 24 Mississippi State). While the Buckeyes’ lone loss was far worse, it did come against No. 2 Michigan. Alabama’s coveted close losses to LSU and Tennessee were diminished when those teams suffered subsequent defeats.
TCU also has a better record than Alabama—more wins (12 to 10), fewer losses (one to two), more games (13 to 12). Like the Tide’s two losses, the Horned Frogs’ lone loss came on the last play. It was against a top-10 team, and evened their record against K-State at 1-1 this season. The two also have a common opponent in Texas that TCU dispatched more easily—the Frogs beat the Longhorns 17–10 and controlled most of the game, whereas Alabama beat Texas by a point on a winning field goal with 10 seconds left.
So it’s time for the Playoff to break its Alabama addiction. The Tide have been in seven of the previous eight iterations, but past history and blueblood status don’t automatically make this flawed bunch a CFP team. Don’t be fooled by imitations in familiar uniforms. Or Saban rhetoric. (Among his arguments was that his team is playing better at the end of the season, which apparently means that beating Austin Peay and the worst Auburn team in a decade is something to consider?)
And don’t just mindlessly buy the premise that a No. 4 seed Alabama would give Georgia a good game in a semifinal. The Bulldogs absolutely handled both teams that beat Bama, one by two touchdowns and the other by 20 points, and neither of those games were as close as the final score.
There simply may not be a team capable of challenging the Bulldogs as the No. 4 seeds. As anticipated, Georgia came out of its late-season offensive shell in the SEC title game against LSU and let quarterback Stetson Bennett cook, throwing 274 yards and four touchdowns while completing 23 of 29 attempts. When Georgia is able to complement its defense with a balanced offense and quality special teams, everyone is in trouble.
Meanwhile, Michigan figures to be hard to beat in the other semifinal—although a rematch with Ohio State would send pulses racing and ratings soaring. If college sports in lucky enough to get Duke-North Carolina in one Final Four and Ohio State-Michigan in another in the same calendar year, that’s a whole lot of rivalry allure. But the football game might not be anywhere near as competitive as the taut thriller the Tobacco Road titans played in April. The things the Wolverines did to the Buckeyes in the second half in Columbus are hard to fix in a month.
And even with centerpiece running back Blake Corum out for the rest of the season, the Wolverines have their next star at that position in Donovan Edwards. Against Ohio State last week and Purdue Saturday night, Edwards ran for a combined 401 yards and three touchdowns. The Michigan offense is peaking, and the defense is relentlessly reliable.
Those are two quality headliners for this year’s Playoff. TCU and Ohio State are coming in with losses and excuses, but no apologies. They’re better choices than a far-from-vintage Alabama team trying to get in on name recognition and Saban lobbying efforts.
More College Football Coverage:
• Latest Playoff Outlook: With TCU’s Loss, Who Gets In?
• TCU Has One Dream Dashed, But Playoff Hopes Alive
• In Hiring Deion Sanders, Give Colorado Credit