Sep. 26, 2016
Could Alabama miss the College Football Playoff?
By Ryan Decker for Now on Deck.
Alabama has been No. 1 from the on set of this college football season.
Just five weeks into this year and the rankings have already changed dramatically.
Three different teams have been ranked second and three have been ranked third.
Add in a pair of losses by Oklahoma, LSU, and Notre Dame – all of which began the season ranked in the Top 10 –, and a 40-point blowout that Florida State came out on the wrong side of, and life has been chaotic for the “top” teams to say the least.
The constant, though, has been Nick Saban and Alabama.
Bama started the season handing then-No. 20 USC one of its worst losses in program history. In Weeks 2 and 4 the Tide took care of business against a spry Western Kentucky team and covered a lofty 44-point spread against Kent State.
In between, Alabama pulled off a historic comeback (and nearly gave the game away) against SEC opponent Ole Miss in Oxford.
Even with the way Alabama went down early to Ole Miss, and then, once seemingly in control, almost gave the game right back to Chad Kelly and company late in the contest, Tuscaloosa is still home to the best team in college football.
Ohio State, Louisville, and Michigan – Nos. 2-4 in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll – have all looked good, and dominant at times.
But the truth is Bama is still the top dog. (I can see the eye rolls already)
The other truth is that the Crimson Tide will make it a perfect three for three in qualifying for the College Football Playoff.
Saban has found his QB for the future, and for the present, in Jalen Hurts.
Hurts is the most mobile quarterback Saban has had in some time, and has the potential to become the best QB that Saban has had at Alabama since AJ McCarron.He’s made the necessary big plays when need be and has done a good job protecting the football.
Playing behind Hurts is Alabama’s latest star running back in Damien Harris, who’s averaging over 8.5 yards per carry, placing him fifth in the nation amongst players who have rushed the ball at least 30 times.
The two have combined to lead one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country at 46.5 points per game.
On the other side of the ball, is another typical balanced, hard-nosed, sound defensive unit.
A defense that came into this season with talks of having the ability to prove to be one of the best in the history of the program has produced thus far. Phil Savage, an Alabama radio analyst and former GM of the Cleveland Browns, said something similar.
After seeing @AlabamaFTBL practice yesterday, this defense will be the fastest and most athletic Nick Saban has had in his 10 seasons.— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) August 25, 2016
Already they’ve scored as many defensive touchdowns (4) as last year’s unit did.
Allen posted 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in 2015. He’s already got three sacks and three tackles for loss this year.
And even though Williams found his name in the news for a reason other than football Thursday, Alabama has a little bit of time to figure out how to replace him, if he will miss time.
The toughest part of the schedule is yet to come for Alabama. That much is true, and shouldn’t be overlooked by Crimson Tide fans.
After Saturday’s game against Kentucky, the Tide travel to (20) Arkansas, to Knoxville to face (11) Tennessee and to Baton Rouge for a trip to “Death Valley”. Also in that stretch, Alabama welcomes No. 9 Texas A&M, which has given Alabama troubles since joining the SEC.
But just because the games are scheduled to be tough on paper, don’t expect Alabama to slip up.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Tide don’t have fewer than a 65-percent chance to win any of those four games.
Arkansas looked completely outmatched against A&M last week. Tennessee has been inconsistent and prone to slow starts, offensively. LSU’s program is currently in a weird place with numerous coaching changes.
Texas A&M poses the biggest challenge with its potent offense and a defense that is holding the opposition to just 16 points per game.
Even if the Tide do slip, it won’t hurt them mightily.
Only one team from the Big Ten, likely either Michigan and Ohio State, will make the College Football Playoff. The same goes from ACC as long as neither Clemson or Louisville completely fall off the rails.
That leaves two spots open, and one spot is automatically reserved for the SEC champ, and the only way Saban’s team doesn’t make a trip to the SEC title game for the fourth time in five years is if they finish with a worse conference record than someone else in the SEC West.
That won’t happen.
Don’t worry Alabama fans. You’re team’s going to be in the College Football Playoff.
Saban may have said Thursday that he’s worried about the state of college football after the dismissal of Les Miles, but he will find comfort in his own championship run.