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Alabama just won’t go away.
It’s part of the mystique of its football program. Even when the Crimson Tide is not that good, or doesn’t look good, it still hangs around, gets a break and pulls out games. Check almost the entire 1992 national championship season.
Check its wins over bad LSU and Auburn teams in 2021 when it won the SEC and reached the national title game. See its wins over Texas and Texas A&M this season.
Alabama (10-2) lost two out of three games from Oct. 15 through Nov. 5 this season. A two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff since it started in 2014. But both of Bama’s losses happened on the last play of the game on the road at then-No. 6 Tennessee, 52-49, and at then-No. 15 LSU, 32-31 in overtime. So, Alabama is still hanging around.
The Tide was No. 7 in the CFP rankings last week. And two teams ahead of it at the time – No. 2 Ohio State (11-1) and No. 6 LSU (9-3) – each lost on Saturday. So, the Tide could inch closer to the final four in the next CFP rankings on Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN).
Does Alabama Have A Chance to Creep In?
And if a couple more teams above Alabama lose this weekend in conference championship games, such as No. 4 TCU (12-0) and/or No. 6 USC (11-1), it could happen. Alabama could creep into the top four during the final CFP rankings before the postseason on Sunday (Noon, ESPN).
“Don’t vomit in your mouth,” a Baton Rouge television sports anchor said Saturday night after LSU’s loss. “But Alabama could still make the playoffs.”
Yes, that red scab just won’t go away. Just when you thought it was safe to see four non-Crimson teams in the playoffs for just the second time ever, the Bama Blob is oozing back.
Alabama has continued to have one of the very top strength of schedule rankings in the nation. Its schedule is currently No. 1 by TeamRanking.com. That keeps being brought up. And it is Alabama, which tends to be its greatest asset year after year, even if it is only above average. No one brings that up, but it enters the picture, probably partly subliminally.
Play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler closed CBS’ telecast of Alabama’s 49-27 win over Auburn Saturday by saying the Tide still had a chance to reach the final four. How so? New math? And that was before LSU’s loss. Nevermind that Auburn, which finished 5-7, just put up 318 rushing yards, and Alabama had its usual double-digit penalties.
Alabama is the most penalized team in the SEC at 70 yards a game, by the way. Only seven FBS schools are worse.
Alabama Fails The Eye And Schedule Test
Alabama has been a sloppy team this season. It could easily be 8-4. The Tide beat sorry Texas A&M, which finished 5-7, by 24-20 on Oct. 8 only after a gift, no-call on clear pass interference against the Tide in the end zone on the last play of the game.
The Tide was fortunate to slip by then-No. 22 Texas, 20-19, on Sept. 10. Yet, CFP selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan mentioned Alabama’s win over Texas as significant recently. Texas is 8-4. Corrigan, like so many probably subliminally, just can’t get past the red helmets in his eye test.
In both the Texas A&M and Texas games, Alabama failed the eye test.
Alabama’s much ballyhooed strength of schedule argument, meanwhile, fails the truth test.
Alabama’s Schedule Gets A Hard Look
Funny thing about strength of schedule – it is only significant if the team with the strong schedule beats the strong teams on the schedule. Fans and media often forget that:
“Oh, they have a tough schedule.”
“Great, but you lost to the tough teams.”
One does not get credit just for playing a tough schedule. And Alabama lost two of those games, and here’s the clincher. The two teams Alabama lost to have gotten worse. The ranking of a team at the time of the game is not nearly as significant as after the regular season.
Tennessee has lost twice since beating Alabama and rising to No. 1 in the first CFP poll. It is No. 10 in the CFP rankings going into Tuesday night. The Vols fell, 27-13, at No. 1 Georgia in a game it trailed 21-3 early in the second quarter. Then Tennessee was embarrassed, 63-38, at unranked South Carolina just over a week ago. Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina hurts Alabama significantly – or should.
LSU has also not looked good since beating Alabama as it barely beat an Arkansas team, 13-10, that finished 6-6. Then the Tigers were just waxed 38-23 on Saturday at Texas A&M, which finished 5-7. LSU’s loss to A&M hurts Alabama significantly – or should.
In fact, Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina and LSU’s loss to A&M should count for a half loss each for Alabama, which would mean it has three losses.
A closer look at Alabama’s “tough” schedule reveals that it has exactly two wins over teams currently ranked by the Associated Press. And that is at the bottom of the poll – No. 21 Texas (8-4) and No. 25 Mississippi State (8-4). Wow, Murderer’s Row.
No. 6 USC, meanwhile, has a schedule ranked No. 36 in the nation, but that probably needs to hit the refresh button. If the Trojans (11-1) beat No. 12 Utah (9-3) in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday (8 p.m., FOX), they will close with three straight wins over ranked teams. USC beat No. 15 Notre Dame Saturday after the Trojans beat No. 16 UCLA the previous week in a thriller. A win over Utah would also erase its only loss of the season, which was 43-42 to Utah on Oct. 15.
Meanwhile, Alabama was beating Austin Peay and Auburn in its last two games. USC just looks significantly better than Alabama.
USC has one other win over a team currently ranked as it beat No. 16 Oregon State on Sept. 24. Of USC’s 11 wins, six came against losing teams, including 1-11 Colorado, 3-9 Stanford, 3-9 Arizona State and 4-8 California. That’s what brings the Trojans’ schedule ranking down. But one can only beat the teams one plays, and USC did that all but once. And the team it lost to – Utah – has won four of its last five, and that loss was 20-17 to No. 15 Oregon.
If USC wins out to finish 12-1, it should finish higher than Alabama in the CFP rankings. So should 12-0 TCU, which has the No. 9 ranked schedule. TCU, like Alabama, has two wins over teams currently ranked in the A.P. top 25 – No. 13 Kansas State and No. 21 Texas.
Which brings us to Ohio State (11-1), which has the No. 4 ranked schedule. Its only loss is to No. 2 Michigan, so it should stay above Alabama as well.
Final Four Down To This
Here is how the CFP rankings’ final four could shake out:
-Georgia (12-0) is in, whether it wins or loses against LSU (9-3) in the SEC title game Saturday in Atlanta (4 p.m., CBS).
-Michigan (12-0) is in, unless it loses to unranked Purdue (8-4) in the Big Ten title game Saturday in Indianapolis (8 p.m., FOX).
-TCU (12-0) is in, unless it loses to No. 13 Kansas State (9-3) in the Big 12 title game Saturday in Arlington, Texas (Noon, ABC).
-USC (11-1) could get in, unless it loses to No. 12 Utah (9-3) in the Pac-12 title game on Friday (8 p.m., FOX).
-Ohio State (11-1) is hoping for multiple losses out of Michigan, TCU and USC this weekend.
-Alabama (10-2) needs to hope for multiple losses out of Michigan, TCU and USC, even some of its followers think it will just get in because it’s Alabama. Nope.
If everybody wins, Ohio State will have a chance to edge USC for the fourth spot.
If everybody wins, Alabama is out.