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There was dead silence when Alabama appeared at No. 2 in the first College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night on ESPN.
Everyone expected the Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC) to be in the top four, yes. But No. 2 with a near-loss to an average Florida team (4-4, 2-4 SEC) and a loss to Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2)? The Aggies looked pedestrian in losses to pedestrian Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) and an average Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2 SEC), which is only now trending above average.
Florida, meanwhile, came within a good two-point conversion call and an extra point of beating Alabama before a 31-29 loss on Sept. 18. The Gators have gone on to lose to the likes of LSU (4-4, 2-3) and could not stay on the field with CFP No. 1 Georgia in a 34-7 loss Saturday.
“I am a little shocked by it,” ESPN announcer Rece Davis, an Alabama alum and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, native, said.
“Alabama has received more respect in this poll than I thought they would after watching the second half against Florida, after losing to a Texas A&M team that had lost two games in a row and didn’t look very good,” ESPN’s Joey Galloway added.
Alabama’s highest quality wins are over Ole Miss (6-2, 3-2 SEC), which is No. 16 in the CFP rankings, and Mississippi State, which is No. 17. That’s not very impressive. That is not a No. 2 team now. Key word, now.
“Alabama is the only team in the college football whose losses don’t count,” tweeted Jason Kersey of The Athletic. He is right.
Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic asked two excellent questions. “What would Alabama be ranked if it hadn’t lost to A&M? Exactly the same?”
Well, based on the mindset of the CFP selection committee, Alabama would be No. 1 if it was undefeated because these masterminds saw one-loss Alabama being No. 2 as a no brainer. But the committee’s collective brain should be at question.
“There was a lot of discussion on Alabama – where they’ve been, who they’ve played and who they’ve beaten, Mississippi and Mississippi State, and how well they’re playing,” said 13-member CFP committee chairman Gary Barta, who is Iowa’s athletic director. But he sounds more like he is the president of the Red Elephant booster club.
He actually brought up Mississippi State as a quality win.
“There was a lot of consensus for Alabama to be No. 2,” Barta said.
And where did the College Football Playoff selection committee meet to form this consensus on Alabama? At one of Baumhower’s Victory Grille’s eight locations in Alabama?
“A corrupt system period,” FOX Sports’ Tim Brando tweeted.
Those defending Alabama’s No. 2 pick say it “will play itself out.” But with that philosophy, why have any CFP rankings? It will play itself out.
And why does Alabama get the lofty ranking until “things play out?” Why not put Auburn at No. 2. If things play out where Auburn (6-2, 3-1) beats Alabama on Nov. 27 and Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, then Auburn’s destiny has “played itself out.” Until anything “plays out,” rankings are to be based on what team deserves the rankings now, not after “it plays out.”
Even Alabama coach Nick Saban did not sound like he was coaching the No. 2 team in the nation at the moment. Key words – at the moment.
“I think we’ve been a little inconsistent,” he said on the SEC teleconference Wednesday. “So, hopefully, we can build on the identity of consistency as being something that is going to be necessary for us to finish the season the way we’d like to.”
Saban also said some of his young team’s leadership could be better. He would likely be saying such things if his team was undefeated, too, but still he sounds like this team is a work progress, and not quite No. 2 yet.
Alabama may well end up No. 2 or higher in the last CFP rankings before the playoffs start on Dec. 31, but the committee is supposed to decide where the teams are now. Not where they might be in the future, or in Alabama’s case, what they have done in the past and how that might make people feel about their future. The committee mistakenly pushed Alabama to No. 2 based on history and a probable future when it needs to look at now.
And do not be surprised if Alabama’s future includes an upset loss at Auburn, which is No. 13 and on the rise. Can’t wait to hear Barta explain that one away.
SABAN STUDENTS AT HEAD OF CLASS: Former Nick Saban assistants as head coaches do not beat him much – 1-24 to be exact. But a trio joined him at the top of the CFP rankings Tuesday. Three of the four teams grouped with Alabama at the top of the rankings are coached by former members of Saban’s national champion 2015 staff.
Georgia, which is No. 1 in the CFP rankings, is coached by Kirby Smart, who was Alabama’s defensive coordinator in 2015. No. 3 Michigan State is coached by Mel Tucker, who was Alabama’s secondary coach in 2015. And No. 4 Oregon is coached by Mario Cristobal, who was Saban’s offensive line coach that season.
Tucker and Cristobal are also among the more popular coaches being listed as possible candidates to be LSU’s new coach. They have also not coached against Saban yet as head coaches.
“It’s no surprise to me that they’re doing extremely well in their own programs now,” Saban said Wednesday. “And I think they actually do have some of the best teams in the country.”
There are two other former Saban assistants in the CFP rankings – Texas A&M at No. 14 under coach Jimbo Fisher, who was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000-04 and is the only pupil to beat the headmaster, and Ole Miss at No. 16 under coach Lane Kiffin, who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2014-16.
“We’ve always had success here because of the people in the organization,” Saban said. “And that most certainly starts with the coaching staff that we’ve had. We’ve had some fantastic coaches here who have done an outstanding job with our players.”
SATURDAY’S GAMES (CFP Rankings, Central Time Kickoffs, FanDuel Point Spreads)
Missouri at No. 1 Georgia (37.5-point favorites), 11 a.m., ESPN; Liberty at No. 16 Ole Miss (9.5 favorites), 11 a.m., SEC Network; No. 13 Auburn at No. 14 Texas A&M (4.5 favorites), 2:30 p.m., CBS; No. 17 Mississippi State at Arkansas (5.5 favorites), 3 p.m., SEC Network; LSU at No. 2 Alabama (28.5 favorites), 6 p.m. ESPN; Tennessee at No. 18 Kentucky (2.5 favorites), 6 p.m., ESPN2; Florida (18.5 favorites) at South Carolina, 6:30 p.m. SEC Network.
GUILBEAU POLL 1.Georgia (8-0, 6-0 SEC). 2. Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2). 3. Alabama (7-1, 4-1). 4. Auburn (6-2, 3-1). 5. Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2). 6. Ole Miss (6-2, 3-2). 7. Kentucky (6-2, 4-2). 8. Arkansas (5-3, 1-3). 9. LSU (4-4, 2-3). 10. Florida (4-4, 2-4). 11. Tennessee (4-4, 2-3). 12. Missouri (4-4, 1-3). 13. South Carolina (4-4, 1-4). 14. Vanderbilt (2-7, 0-5).
STAT OF THE WEEK
Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers set the SEC record for completion percentage at .923 by hitting 36 of 39 passes for 344 yards in a 31-17 home win over Kentucky.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We’re too predictable by formations on offense – too predictable on first down. We’re very, very predictable on defense. We need to have more of a variety on first down. We’re giving them the same looks over and over again. There’s not much disguise. What we line up in, we were in. We have not been in the right adjustments on defense. We have not been in the right position, according to some formations.”
… A very candid lame duck LSU coach Ed Orgeron on the self scouting of his offense and defense during the team’s open week. Orgeron hired both offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and defensive coordinator Daronte Jones after last season.
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