By John Camera
Alabama is a good football team. A damn good football team. But after their embarrassing 26-14 loss against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, it is clear that they are not the best team in the nation. That argument is certainly up for debate but is best left for another article. Simply put, Alabama doesn’t deserve to be in the playoff this year and Nick Saban’s whining shouldn’t change that.
To be fair to him, Saban is being a good coach when he said post-game that his guys deserved a shot at the playoff. There are a lot of talented players on his roster, guys who are Seniors and guys who will go to the NFL after their Junior season. This is their last chance to win a championship and Saban, like every other coach in America, wants to deliver that to them. But his words ring hollow, especially after his comments following the Crimson Tide’s 27-19 win over Texas A&M back on October 7.
“It’s like taking poison. Like rat poison.”
That was what Saban said in regards to the hype sports pundits had placed on Alabama. The head coach heaped blame on the media for inflating his team’s ego and affecting their performance against Texas A&M, a game that Saban thought shouldn’t have been as close as it turned out.
“I’m asking them (the players) are you going to listen to me or are you going to listen to these guys (the media) about how good you are?” Saban continued in his postgame press conference. The coach is telling his team to remain humble, as any coach would, but is reminding them they are not as great as the media has dubbed them.
Up until their near-loss against Mississippi State, two weeks before the Iron Bowl, the Tide seemed unstoppable in the regular season yet again. Even with a great Georgia team wrapping up the SEC East and an emerging Auburn team, Bama still seemed like the favorite to finish 13-0 and earn the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. Things obviously did not turn out this way and Alabama will both finish the year 11-1 and without being able to play for the SEC Championship. If they hope to make the playoffs, they will have to do so as a team that is not a conference champion. This would be the first time that a team would make the playoff without at least a stake in its conference championship.
If Alabama had lost to a team like LSU or Mississippi State earlier in the season, it would’ve diminished their record and ranking but would not have had the same affect as losing to Auburn. Losing to LSU or Mississippi State and then beating Auburn would’ve guaranteed Alabama a spot in the playoff as long as they beat Georgia for the SEC Championship. But losing to Auburn on the last week of the regular season and missing out on a chance to play in the Championship has doomed Bama barring a series of upsets this coming weekend.
If Alabama does indeed miss out on the playoff, it would be the first time in the tourney’s history that the Tide won’t be in it. But when Nick Saban declares that his team is not as good as the media says and then argues that his team is good enough to be in the playoff despite failing to take care of business against Auburn, he cannot be able to have it both ways. This is an Alabama team that has big wins over bad squads like Tennessee, Arkansas and Mercer. They also have played average teams very close, like Texas A&M, LSU and Mississippi State. The best team they faced all year, Auburn, decidedly bested them by 12 points and dominated almost the entire game.
Alabama is not the same juggernaut they have been in past years, Saban is right about that much. And for that reason, they do not belong in the College Football Playoff this season.