After an Iron Bowl beatdown, Alabama's Playoff bid should be locked in
Before you tell me that you’re bored of Alabama or that this team isn’t fair, consider this: The Crimson Tide just capped a perfect 12-0 season having won every game by at least 3 scores. As a result, Tua Tagovailoa finished the regular season having not thrown a single fourth quarter incompletion.
Alabama just became the first team to outscore each of its first 12 opponents by 20-plus points since Yale … in 1888. Y’all: The Tide just had the most dominant regular season since the Grover Cleveland administration.
Based on that dominance, Alabama should have its Playoff bid locked up. That’s right. I believe that the Tide will have a loss to give in the SEC Championship.
That’s not some sort of SEC bias narrative. That’s just looking at the body of work and realizing what this team has already accomplished. A neutral-site loss to a likely top-4 Georgia team isn’t going to change that.
Does that mean Alabama should mail it in against the Dawgs? Of course not. Nobody will be thinking about that, especially after Alabama missed out on a chance to play in the SEC Championship last year.
But this belief that an Alabama team that was that unstoppable all regular season is in a win-or-go-home scenario seems absurd. Well, it does when you consider that at least one Playoff spot will be occupied by either a 1-loss Power 5 conference champ or — dare I say — an undefeated Group of 5 team.
What does the Tide still have to prove in Atlanta? Ohio State got to have a bad day, as did Oklahoma and Georgia.
And again, we’re talking about an Alabama team that won every game by at least 3 scores. You know who didn’t do that? That 2013 Florida State team didn’t do it, and neither did that 2016 Alabama team. Shoot, not even that dominant 1995 Nebraska team could claim that.
Week in, week out, Alabama showed that it’s one of the nation’s best. Nick Saban’s squad has led or tied for all but 70 seconds this year.
If you aren’t sold on Alabama making the field yet, perhaps some cold-hard résumé numbers will convince you. As of right now, these are the wins against teams ranked in the Playoff poll (scoring margin):
- Alabama — 3 (+75)
- Ohio State — 2 (+24)
- Oklahoma — 2 (+13)
- UCF — 1 (+31)
And as of right now, here are the amount wins against current top 10 teams:
- Alabama — 1
- Ohio State — 0
- Oklahoma — 0
- UCF — 0
As you recall, that win Alabama had was the 29-0 beatdown at LSU. Neither Ohio State nor Oklahoma will face a top-10 team in a neutral-site conference championship game. And yeah, UCF definitely won’t.
I reference that because if for some reason Alabama loses to a red-hot Georgia team in Atlanta, some will suddenly want to say that a team shouldn’t make the Playoff unless it wins its conference title game … even though the selection committee hasn’t made that a prerequisite.
Saying that a team has a Playoff bid before playing in a conference title game might seem far-fetched because outside of the 2016 Alabama team, we really haven’t had that conversation come up. We’ve also never had a team this dominant in the Playoff era.
Imagine arguing that Alabama, which will have more quality wins than Ohio State regardless of how championship weekend shakes out, isn’t as deserving as a 1-loss Buckeye team that lost by 29 to Purdue. That’s not to take away anything from what the Buckeyes did Saturday. That blowout win against Michigan is going to keep their Playoff hopes alive.
But not all 12-1 teams are created equal. A 1-loss Alabama team would serve as a reminder of that.
We’re going to talk about Alabama’s SEC and national title odds because of how good this team has been, and that’s fair. That’ll dominate headlines for the next month. Just don’t overlook how impressive of a regular season this was. That would be a mistake. The bigger mistake would be selling yourself on the belief that Alabama is getting left out of the Playoff.
I realize that I’m breaking down the unthinkable. That is, Alabama loses a game. So far, just being within a couple scores is a win.
Perhaps there was no better example of that then on Saturday when Gus Malzahn had all 3 timeouts and 2.5 minutes to put together a scoring drive at the end of the first half. Instead, he decided that just being within 3 of Alabama at halftime was a win.
Malzahn’s attempt to shorten the game obviously didn’t end up well. He watched his team lose by 31 to the Tide to close the regular season. Rather, he watched his team close Alabama’s perfect regular season.
And yeah, it should’ve also closed any argument about the Tide’s Playoff bid.