Expert College Football Handicapping: Alabama Doesn't Deserve Playoff Invite
Alabama absolutely, positively should not make the College Football Playoff. And there is no coherent argument that anyone in the United States can make to the contrary.
The Auburn Tigers manhandled the Crimson Tide 26-14 last Saturday, dealing Alabama its first loss of the season. That defeat eliminated Alabama's hope for an SEC West or an overall SEC Championship. And when the most recent college football rankings were released on Monday, it prompted the Tide to drop from No. 1 to No. 5.
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When the new College Football Playoff Rankings are announced on Tuesday night, the general belief is that Alabama will drop to either No. 5 or No. 6, putting them on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff for the first time since the format was adopted in 2014.
Now, college football has long been a joke to me. One of my former editors once called it, "violent figure skating". And he was right. Because unlike any other sport, college football chooses its champion based on some bizarre, amorphous, oddly subjective criteria rather than on actual head-to-head competition. It's been the fatal flaw in the sport since it was founded. And the playoffs were constructed to help alleviate some of that weakness.
So this is the moment for the College Football Playoff to actually justify itself. The playoff selection committee needs to do the objectively correct thing and leave Alabama out of the field, regardless of what happens in the conference title games on Championship Saturday.
Alabama should not have any path to the playoffs. The winner of the SEC Championship Game between Auburn and Georgia will be in. The winner of the Big Ten title game (Ohio State vs. Wisconsin) should be in the four-team playoff, period. Especially considering how much better the Big Ten has been than the SEC this year. If Miami beats Clemson, then it is impossible to say that Alabama has done more than the Hurricanes this year. And even if Oklahoma gets upset in the Big 12 title game they should be in above the Crimson Tide.
(In fact, if Clemson, Auburn, Ohio State and TCU win I think the more interesting argument is who should get the fourth spot: Wisconsin, Georgia or Oklahoma, all of whom are more deserving than Alabama.)
The arguments against Alabama are obvious. The Crimson Tide didn't even win their division and obviously didn't win their conference title. What's more, the Crimson Tide really haven't played anyone and they haven't beaten anyone this year. Their best win was either over 5-6 Florida State, at home over an LSU team that lost to Troy, or unimpressively winning at Mississippi State. The SEC has been a joke this year. An absolute joke. Florida? Dumpster fire. Tennessee? Train wreck. Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M? All three have changed coaches within the past four months. The SEC stinks and might be the fourth-best league in the country from top to bottom.
There is absolutely no way that the SEC deserves to have two teams in the four-team playoff this year. No way. Not even close. And if the selection committee decides to put the Crimson Tide in the playoffs - with no resume, no division title, no impressive nonconference wins, and no notable road wins - simply due to the fact that they are an overhyped program then it will just serve as another reminder of what a corrupt, nonsensical, completely illegitimate entity college football actually is.
The only argument in favor of Alabama's inclusion - which is likely to come from slack-jawed, pedophile-loving Tide fans, SEC sympathizers, or media members with a financial stake in SEC football - is pretty flimsy. Tide supporters can only meekly point to the fact that Alabama has spent the entire season as the No. 1 team in both polls.
But what that argument neglects is that the polls don't mean anything! They are not an objective fact but some vague construct of public opinion.
You know what is an objective fact? That the preseason polls suggested hat Florida State - a team that needs a win over Louisiana-Monroe this weekend just to become bowl eligible - was the second-best team in the country. Or that those same polls had Tennessee, which just wrapped up a 0-8 SEC season by getting blown away by Vanderbilt, as a Top 25 preseason team. Or that rebuilding Michigan was a Top 10 squad at the start of the year.
The bottom line is that the polls get things wrong all the time. And just because people THINK a team is good doesn't mean that they are. My entire industry is based around the fact that the general public's opinions about sports teams, reflected in the market by point spreads, are often spectacularly wrong! You can't just think teams are good. At some point they actually have to go out and prove it. And Alabama hasn't.
In fact, most of the Alabama "dynasty" has been built more on the belief or presumption of success and greatness than the actually proof of it. The Crimson Tide have been, in a way, a college football con; a self-fulfilling prophecy and endless feedback loop left unquestioned by the masses.
Now it is time to blow that up and show the rest of the 99 percent of the country that isn't Alabama that the sport is one of merit.
Finally, the Crimson Tide have already been on the winning side of one of these arguments. In the 2011-12 season Alabama was gifted a spot in the BCS Championship Game despite not winning the SEC West. Instead, Alabama was allowed a rematch with LSU, whom had beaten Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and proceeded to win one of the ugliest title games in history.
Oklahoma State, which actually won its league title and which scored two Top 10 wins and four Top 25 wins during the regular season, was snubbed for Alabama that season based on the abstract belief that the Crimson Tide was the better team. The decision was a farce. And Alabama took advantage.
In my opinion, that decision was the beginning of the end for the entire BCS system. And that is why we have a four-team college playoff. So now the committee needs to make an effort to stem the tide of a century of college football illegitimacy and put the sport on the right path to move forward.
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Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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