Now we’re going to find out if the College Football Playoff can function without Alabama.
In its five years of existence, we’ve never played one without the Crimson Tide. But we likely will this season, after ‘Bama was busted by LSU by the very 2019 score of 46-41.
Alabama has no quality wins, unless you’re feeling generous about 6-3 Texas A&M. It likely will have just one more opportunity to get one, at Auburn on Nov. 30. LSU would have to lose twice to give the Tide a shot at the SEC West title and a berth in the league title game, and that isn’t happening given what the Tigers have left.
The best ‘Bama can finish is 11-1, and it would be a soft 11-1. It would include a loss in which the mighty Crimson Tide surrendered their most points in a game since 1970 (48 to Mississippi) and most points surrendered in Tuscaloosa since … I am not making this up … 1907 (54 to mighty Sewanee).
The body of work is soft when your non-conference schedule consists of Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Mississippi and Western Carolina—none of which were in the top 50 of the Sagarin Ratings heading into Saturday. It is soft when your SEC crossover opponents are South Carolina and Tennessee, the former of whom lost for the sixth time this season Saturday, and both of whom have losses to Sun Belt opponents. It is soft when the distance between the top four in the West and the bottom three is a chasm.
Now, after watching LSU celebrate like wild men on its home field, Alabama needs some help to get where it wants to be.
“We don’t really control our own destiny,” Nick Saban acknowledged afterward.
Alabama simply doesn’t have a playoff-worthy résumé. Not unless several other one-loss teams become two-loss teams.
Currently, the playoff picture looks like this: the SEC champion, Big Ten champion and Clemson, with the fourth spot very much up for grabs. If the Big 12 champ finishes with one or zero losses (i.e., Oklahoma or Baylor), it may have a better résumé than Alabama’s. Same with a potential one-loss Big Ten runner-up, if both Ohio State and Minnesota advance to that league title game undefeated. If Georgia beats LSU in the SEC title game, the Tide could be aced out of the playoff by both of them.
(Yes, we really are getting to the point of taking Minnesota and Baylor seriously as playoff contenders. What a concept.)
The best argument an 11-1 Alabama may have is over a one-loss Pac-12 champion — especially if it’s Oregon, because the Tide would have a victory over an Auburn team that defeated the Ducks.
Per Sagarin, Oregon (No. 24), Penn State (No. 39), Utah (No. 40), Oklahoma (No. 49), Georgia (No. 50) and Cincinnati (No. 56) all are one-loss teams that came into Saturday with schedules rated stronger than Alabama’s, which checked in at No. 59. Obviously, ‘Bama’s schedule strength will get a big bump from playing LSU, but the Tide also lost the game. At home, where it had won 31 games in a row.
“We don’t think it’s over,” said safety Xavier McKinney. “We can only worry about us and getting better, which we will do. … We got humbled.”
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SOURCE: Sports Illustrated, Pat Forde