I’ve watched every snap of every Alabama game this year. I’m convinced that coach Nick Saban and Co. are one of the best four teams in America.
The Crimson Tide are third in the SEC in total offense, as well as second in scoring offense. On the other side of the ball, it’s just another year in Tuscaloosa. They’re second nationally in total D and first in scoring D.
‘Bama wrapped up the regular season 11-1, although it ended with a 26-14 clunker at Auburn in the Iron Bowl seven days ago. The Tide fell from No. 1 to No. 5 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, so getting upset by the Tigers — they were playing as well as any program in the country at the time — wasn’t an eliminator.
However, with Championship Week now in the rearview mirror, Alabama doesn’t deserve to be part of the Final Four.
No. 1 Clemson beat No. 7 Miami in the ACC Championship Game, so the defending national champion has punched its ticket. Even if the Tigers lost at unranked Syracuse in Week 7, they have plenty of quality wins on their résumé.
Auburn was No. 2 — one of its two losses came at Clemson, however — but fell in its rematch with No. 6 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Just three weeks ago, the Tigers neutered the Bulldogs on The Plains. The script was flipped at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, though. Now the conference champ, Georgia earned its invite.
Speaking of rematches, No. 3 Oklahoma had no trouble with No. 11 TCU a second time in the Big 12 Championship Game and deserves to go.
What complicates matters is No. 8 Ohio State topping No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Badgers were the lone undefeated club from a Power 5 league coming into the day, but the Buckeyes had two defeats that are difficult to ignore.
Ohio State was tamed by aforementioned Oklahoma in Week 2 — at home, mind you — and cost itself an opportunity for an impressive out-of-conference win. The Buckeyes picked up the pieces and won their next six, but then came a blowout defeat at Iowa in Week 10. Keep in mind that the Hawkeyes then lost their next two to Wisconsin and Purdue.
Both Ls were bad, especially giving up 55 points to an Iowa squad nowhere near the Top 25, but Ohio State has something that the Crimson Tide don’t.
Simply speaking, ‘Bama is a victim of its own schedule. It’s not necessarily their fault, but the Tide haven’t beaten anyone who matters. Every team they’ve defeated has at least three losses, and none will play in a big-time bowl game.
We didn’t think that would be the deal three months ago, of course. Alabama kicked off with traditional power Florida State at a neutral site — the Seminoles were preseason No. 3, remember — and emerged victorious in fine fashion. Nobody could’ve anticipated FSU crumbling to 6-6 and coach Jimbo Fisher bolting for Texas A&M.
The Crimson Tide’s three other out-of-conference Ws came over Fresno State, Colorado State and Mercer. Yawn, yawn and yawn.
Their seven victories in league play are nothing to write home about, either. Yes, LSU is a solid 9-3. Sure, Mississippi State is a respectable 8-4. Even Texas A&M is a decent 7-5, although coach Kevin Sumlin was fired nonetheless.
But 59-0 over Vanderbilt means next to nothing, just like 66-3 over Ole Miss the following week and 41-9 over Arkansas two weeks after that. Needless to say, ‘Bama wasn’t helped on The Third Saturday in October — its annual crossover battle with Tennessee. The Volunteers went winless in the SEC for the first time ever.
If the Tide are going to sneak into the playoff, they have to overwhelm the selection committee with an “eye test” argument.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts may be a flawed passer, but he’s still a devastating runner with enough arm talent to make the occasional play over the top. Additionally, it’s never a wise choice to question Saban’s defense.
If Alabama were to meet Ohio State in a national seminfinal, I’d pick the Crimson Tide to win the game and win it comfortably — I’m not here to carry water for the Buckeyes, believe me. While ‘Bama only fell to red-hot Auburn in a heated rivalry, Ohio State wet the bed at home to Oklahoma and then laid an egg at Iowa.
But you have to earn it. The Tide haven’t earned it, period. No major wins. No division title. No conference title.
The Buckeyes still managed to take the Big Ten East, which contains the likes of Michigan, Michigan State and defending champ Penn State. They still captured the league. They just outlasted unblemished Wisconsin.
The Badgers and Nittany Lions are worthy of consideration for a New Year’s Six bowl, and Ohio State beat both. Is anybody really impressed by Alabama defeating LSU — the Bayou Bengals lost to Troy on homecoming, don’t forget — for the seventh time in a row? Now I think the eye test should be considered, but it’s a tiebreaker at best.
Fortunately for both the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes, Pac-12 winner USC has a weak CV and isn’t really in the conversation.
Clemson is in. Georgia is in. Oklahoma is in. This comes down to ‘Bama vs. Ohio State for the fourth and final spot in the field. As far as I’m concerned, the debate has to go deeper than the Tide having one loss to two for the Buckeyes.
You also can’t ignore that Alabama spent Championship Week watching on the couch, just like the rest of us. Additionally, the last time the selection committee saw the Crimson Tide — that fateful day at Jordan-Hare Stadium — they were at their worst. Ohio State, meanwhile, made the most of its extra data point.
I’m not here to make a case for the Buckeyes, per se. It’s just too easy to make a case against ‘Bama.