Sometimes, the mystique is the last thing to go.
A radio show host in New Orleans who is a bit of an LSU fan said it on Sunday afternoon.
“I still think Alabama’s going to get into the playoff,” he said. “I just do.”
A little context. LSU thought it got Alabama out of the BCS national championship game picture in 2011 when the No. 1 Tigers beat the No. 2 Tide, 9-6, in overtime. But Alabama still got into the game, as it should have, when No. 2 and undefeated Oklahoma State somehow lost at unranked Iowa State, 37-31, in two overtimes.
That left Alabama as the only legitimate opponent for No. 1 LSU in the BCS title game. And Alabama won the national championship with a 21-0 win over LSU while not winning the SEC West. The Tide also did not win the West in 2017 and won the national championship. Each time it reached the final two or final four playoff because it had just one regular season loss.
Alabama (8-2, 5-2 SEC) has two losses this regular season, and it is not going to the College Football Playoff. There is no chance. The Tide was ranked No. 9 in the last CFP poll. It will not rise much higher than that after beating No. 11 Ole Miss, 30-24, on Saturday.
The SEC representatives in the playoff will be No. 7 LSU (8-2, 6-1) and No. 1 Georgia (10-0, 7-0), if LSU beats Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 3 in Atlanta. If Georgia beats LSU in the SEC title game, it will be Georgia in the CFP final four and possibly No. 5 Tennessee (9-1, 5-1).
The non-SEC teams will be No. 2 Ohio State (10-0) or No. 3 Michigan (10-0), depending on who wins that game on Nov. 26 at Ohio State (Noon, FOX), and probably TCU (10-0).
But there are probably other SEC fans out there – from LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, Ole Miss – who think Alabama will somehow still get in. You know, because Alabama coach Nick Saban is old friends with NCAA president Mark Emmert, who hired Saban to LSU in 1999 when Emmert was LSU’s chancellor.
That’s mystique. Alabama has been in every CFP but two since those started in 2014.
Mystique is how Alabama beat Ole Miss on Saturday.
Crimson Tide Was On The Verge Of Losing
The Rebels, who outgained the Tide 403 yards to 317 and outrushed it 191 to 108, gashed Alabama through its heart on gains of 35 and 14 yards from tailback Quinshon Judkins in the closing minutes Saturday.
There was Ole Miss on the Alabama 14-yard line, trailing 30-24 with just over a minute to play. What could go wrong?
Ole Miss and coach Lane Kiffin suddenly remembered they were playing Alabama. Just like Texas A&M did on the Alabama 15-yard line in the closing minutes while trailing 24-20 a month ago, and lost. Just like Texas did on the Alabama 24-yard line while trailing 17-16 in September, and kicked a field goal for a 19-17 lead instead of scoring a touchdown, and lost 20-19.
Judkins, who shredded Alabama with 135 yards on 25 carries, never touched the ball again! Quarterback Jaxson Dart threw two straight incompletions, got sacked and threw another incompletion to end Ole Miss’ chance.
It’s like Texas, Texas A&M and Ole Miss were in a lost episode of Stephen King’s “Under The Dome.” They couldn’t break through, as Tennessee and LSU so daringly did with classic, walk-off wins of 52-49 and 32-31. It takes that kind of drama and fast thinking to beat Bama. You don’t think too much.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin thought Alabama would loosen up its pass defense to stop the run or blitz after Judkins had just popped for half a football field on two carries. He may have outthought himself.
“A lot of times after there are explosive runs, and you get in the red zone, they’ll come after you,” Kiffin said. “And they didn’t. So, you know their head coach and defensive coordinator (Pete Golding) make a lot of money for a reason. They’re really good.”
Oh, and there’s this. Kiffin was asked why Judkins was not involved more after the two large gains.
Alabama Did Not Have To Worry About Quinshon Judkins
“I think that’s very fair,” he said of the question. “There’s a lot that goes into it with a little time to think. I always want to do something different when something doesn’t work. But he (Judkins) was also really tired.”
Really, Lane. Is this another excuse? Ole Miss can’t get enough players.
Tired? There’s no tired in college football, I don’t care what your Name, Image & Likeness and depth situations are.
Kiffin had four play calls from the Alabama 14-yard line for the win, and he couldn’t get one right. LSU coach Brian Kelly had one shot from the 3-yard line in overtime last week, and he nailed it. He put the ball in his best player’s hands that night – quarterback Jayden Daniels. Kiffin did not.
Kiffin couldn’t penetrate the pressure barrier that is a little thicker in games against Alabama – not unlike the city of Kandor in Superman.
When Dart’s last pass fell incomplete, and all Alabama had to do was run out the clock, Saban raised both arms up and out on the sideline in triumph. He looked like an older Superman about to take flight.
Alabama’s not flying to any playoff games this season. There will be a nice bowl as the Tide will finish 10-2 and 6-2 with wins over Austin Peay and Auburn in the coming weeks, but there will likely be the usual key players who opt out of that for the draft.
This win over Ole Miss was in essence Alabama’s bowl.
Nick Saban Says Not So Fast
In the final moments as Ole Miss surged toward the winning score that wasn’t, CBS flashed three facts about the would-be Alabama loss:
-It would be Alabama’s first three-loss season since 2010.
-It would mean Alabama had back-to-back losses for the first time since 2013.
-And Alabama was about to lose to Ole Miss for the first time since 2015.
A national radio show also jumped the gun at halftime when Ole Miss led 17-14 as it went into a diatribe of the death of a dynasty.
Not so fast. Super Saban had one last hurrah in store.
They dynasty’s not dead. It’s dented, OK. It can be fixed. Goodness. Alabama lost two games on the last play of each. Now, it could be 6-4, too, but it’s not.
Alabama’s recruiting class for 2023 is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation with 23 commitments – 21 four-stars after similarly ranked classes in the years before that. It will be difficult to get a quarterback on the level of Bryce Young by 2023 or 2024. With Georgia showing no signs of a lull and Tennessee and LSU apparently at Alabama’s level, it could be a three-or-four-year gap between national titles for Alabama.
Was Alabama’s Win At Ole Miss Nick Saban’s Last Hurrah?
The longest such gap under Saban has been just and unbelievable two years.
But does Saban, 71, still want to be chasing national championship No. 8 at 74 of 75?
If this is it for him, and some have been saying it will be since the summer, Saban will always have Ole Miss and one last super stop.
“A great night for us because I think we took a step in the right direction as a football team,” Saban said. “They have a lot of pride in what the standard of playing at Alabama is, and they were challenged to play to that standard. They take it personal to understand that they’re responsible for the identity they create by how they play. And it shouldn’t be anybody else that makes that determination for them.”
That could be words for all future Alabama players to live by, regardless of who is coaching them, and they’ll keep that mystique.