Alabama must sit and wait as playoff chances hang in the balance

Alabama must sit and wait as playoff chances hang in the balance

There is less than a week until the College Football Playoff field will be settled, and for the first time, Alabama does not control its own destiny. After a loss to now No. 2 Auburn, the Crimson Tide will miss out on the SEC Championship. 

Alabama will have to have the right pieces fall into place for them to make it into the top four. The team is not far from it however, coming in at No. 5 in Tuesday’s rankings behind No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Wisconsin.

Even though Alabama has to sit and wait, everyone on their sideline believes they deserve another shot.

“I think we do,” defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “We are a one-loss team and we lost to a really good team. [Auburn] beat one of the great teams and I think that we deserve a chance to be in the playoffs.”

Right now, as it stands, the winner of the SEC and ACC Championships will make the playoff. Those games will almost serve as playoff quarterfinals.

Still, there are a couple of scenarios that will increase Alabama’s chances of making it into the playoffs. The strongest one would be an Oklahoma loss to No. 12 TCU. That would put the Sooners with two losses and TCU would have no shot at climbing from No. 12 into the top four.

An Oklahoma loss would certainly mean a fourth-straight playoff appearance for Alabama. Alabama head coach Nick Saban hopes this team gets another chance to prove itself.

“I think this team deserves the opportunity to get into the playoff by what they have been able to accomplish and what they have been able to do,” Saban said after the loss to Auburn. “Certainly not in this game, but I think the team we played tonight is a very good football team, probably one of the best teams in the country.”

The weaker of the two scenarios is No. 8 Ohio State knocking off No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. Ohio State does have two losses, including a 31-point loss to 7-5 Iowa, but also would have three wins over top 15 teams if it edges out Wisconsin. The Buckeyes also lost to Oklahoma by 15.

The Iowa loss looks bad for the Buckeyes, but the quality wins are also something to take into account. Alabama has some quality wins of its own, being 3-1 against the CFP top 25. 

Still, it would be a headache for the committee, and would not really secure an appearance for Alabama. There is a case for either team to make it if Ohio State should win, according to the CFP Committee Chairman Kirby Hocutt. He said there is “very little separation” between No. 8 Ohio State and No. 5 Alabama.

Hocutt discussed whether the group values big losses or impressive wins more on the broadcast of the rankings. Where the committee places more value will be a huge factor for Alabama.

“We look at everything from performance on the field each week to strength of schedule to quality wins, and then the losses do come into discussion,” Hocutt said. “[Losses] are a factor as we discuss the resume. So, they're on the table for discussion, and we do analyze those losses. So, do they matter? Yes, they do matter."

There is also the chance that no one in the top four loses, and Alabama misses out on the top four. The Crimson Tide would then participate in a New Year's Six bowl. 

Even though Alabama is on the outside looking in, the Crimson Tide is tied with Oklahoma and Clemson with the best odds to win the National Championship at 4-1, according to The Westgate Superbook.

There is still a good chance Alabama makes it in, but for now, the team will have to wait and see.

“Unfortunately or fortunately, it is not in our hands,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “If you win games, you are in. It didn’t work out against a really good Auburn team, but we will see what happens from now.”

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