Why Alabama should’ve already locked up a Playoff bid, regardless of what happens in Atlanta
Don’t be that person.
That person tries to tell you that Alabama doesn’t have a Playoff bid locked in. That person tries to say that conference championships have to mean something, and that an unbeaten Ohio State or a potential 1-loss Notre Dame team would be more deserving of Alabama. That person has Alabama fatigue. More importantly, that person is wrong.
Saturday’s blowout should’ve confirmed that Alabama is in the Playoff. Yes, that’ll be true even if the Crimson Tide get whipped by 30 in Atlanta. That scenario would entail going from one of the most dominant regular season teams ever to suffering the most lopsided defeat of the Nick Saban era in a week’s time. With all due respect to Florida, that’s not happening.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you don’t need to be talked into Alabama already having a Playoff spot. But just for fun, let’s say you do need a push in the right direction. Or rather, you want to sound smart when that person says something dumb on the internet.
No worries. I got you.
Let’s start with Saturday, and not for the sake of recency bias. On Saturday, Alabama beat Arkansas 52-3 to complete a 10-0 SEC-only slate in which it won every game by at least 15 points.
I feel like I need to repeat that. Alabama just closed out a perfect regular season against the SEC, and nobody got closer than 15 points. That 15-point win against Ole Miss was the only victory that wasn’t by at least 3 scores.
Since that Ole Miss game, by the way, 1 team exceeded 17 points against Alabama. Allowing 11 points per game for a 7-game stretch in 2020 — with the way offense is played at this level — is a small miracle. It’s also a pretty important argument against the whole “but Alabama doesn’t play any defense” thing. I’d say a team who allows 2 second-half touchdowns in a 7-game stretch to end the season knows a thing or 2 about playing defense.
Ok, just so you don’t accuse me of shaping a narrative with a specific chunk of the season, compare Alabama’s regular season to 2019 LSU’s regular season. You know, the team who put together the best season in college football history.
Yes, Alabama won’t be comparable to LSU unless it runs the table en route to a perfect season. That much is true.
But if you’re still in denial about how good this team is, think about if that would still be true if it wasn’t Alabama.
Entering Saturday, who was the only team in Playoff contention who had multiple wins against current top-10 teams? Alabama. Those wins against Georgia and Texas A&M came by 17 and 28 points, respectively. Of course they did. That’s 2020 Alabama. It’s the most unstoppable force in college football.
Here’s a little context on that. Go back in time before Saturday’s game and tell Arkansas fans that all 3 of things will happen in the first half:
- Mac Jones averages 7.1 yards per pass attempt
- DeVonta Smith has 22 scrimmage yards
- Najee Harris rushes for 3.3 yards per carry
Arkansas fans would’ve been giddy about that type of start. Mammoth upset in the making?
Nah. Massive butt-whipping in the making. Those 3 things happened and Alabama went into the break up 38-3. That’s what complete teams do.
That’s perhaps the other piece of Alabama’s dominance that is worth mentioning. In 10 first halves in 2020, Alabama is +173. That means against all-SEC competition, the Crimson Tide average a 3-score halftime lead. And again, this is the team who allowed 2 touchdowns in the second half of its final 7 games. That’s a pretty solid combination, I’d say.
It’s unmatched, too.
In any normal year, Notre Dame would be the 1-seed heading into conference championship weekend. The Irish are 10-0 with a win against Clemson, albeit a Trevor Lawrence-less Clemson. Notre Dame won every road game by at least 14 points, too. Yet why isn’t there even a discussion about who the No. 1 team is? The Irish have 5 wins by 14 points or less compared to 0 for Alabama.
What more do you want this team to do? Do you want it to lose its best player to a season-ending injury and have to find a way to pretend like it’s business as usual? Alabama did that. Do you want to see how it performs when it doesn’t have the greatest coach of all-time on the sidelines? Alabama did that, too.
No injury, no pandemic, no conference-only schedule has gotten in the way of the Crimson Tide this year. Nothing would suggest that’ll suddenly happen in Atlanta, but even if it does happen against No. 6 Florida, why would we suddenly pretend that Alabama isn’t deserving of making the Playoff?
The only thing that should be up for debate is whether an Alabama loss and a Notre Dame win would move the Irish into the No. 1 spot. I suspect it would. Beating Clemson twice in a year en route to an 11-0 season would be a darn impressive feat. But notice I said an Alabama loss. That’s how far ahead of the field the Crimson Tide should be if we’re factoring in the extremely hypothetical eye test.
That person would probably like to pretend that it should be all about conference championships.
Sure, let’s pretend the Pac-12 and the Big Ten are worthy of having a conference champ get an automatic Playoff bid despite the fact that they started their season more than a month after the rest of the Power 5. And sure, let’s also pretend that a Big 12 team with 2 losses would be more worthy than an Alabama team with 1. I’d love to hear that person explain why a 17-point home loss to Louisiana-Lafayette should make Iowa State suddenly Playoff-worthy if it wins a conference title game for a league who hasn’t won a Playoff game yet.
That’s laughable. That’s hopefully the extreme minority.
Saturday continued something that’s been undeniable in 2020; Alabama is far and away the best team in college football. That won’t change next Saturday even if Saban’s team walks out onto the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf and takes a socially-distanced nap instead of playing football. It’ll still have a Playoff spot when it wakes up on Selection Sunday.
If you’re of the impression that the Crimson Tide still have something to prove, stop it. Save that energy for Ohio State when it plays its 6th game next Saturday.