And let the arguments and posturing commence in earnest.
Even before No. 6 Auburn put the finishing touches on its Iron Bowl upset of No. 1 Alabama, the questions began: could a one-loss non-SEC champion Crimson Tide team earn a spot in the College Football Playoff? The short answer is, well, yeah — last season, one-loss Ohio State made it over two-loss Penn State, and the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes head-to-head.
The biggest difference there, however, is résumé.
While Alabama beat a Florida State team that was ranked No. 3 in the 2017 opener, the Seminoles’ season imploded into a 5-6 record heading into the regular-season finale. That means the only quality wins UA has for its argument is No. 14 Mississippi State (they’ll drop after the Egg Bowl loss) and No. 18 LSU. Ohio State, meanwhile, had wins over three teams that finished the 2016 regular season ranked in the CFP Top 10: No. 5 Michigan, No. 6 Wisconsin No. 9 Oklahoma. The losses — No. 7 Penn State for OSU, No. 6 (for now) Auburn for UA — are essentially a wash.
The arguments in both directions are expected to be hot and heavy ahead of next weekend’s Selection Sunday, especially if two-loss OSU knocks off unbeaten Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game a week from today. With that in mind, Nick Saban has already begun stumping for his one-loss squad.
Alabama’s best hope to become the second SEC team to make the playoffs this season — let’s face it, the SEC champion, even if it’s two-loss Auburn, isn’t being left out — is for Ohio State to lose to Wisconsin, two-loss TCU to beat one-loss Oklahoma and possibly a three-loss (or four, pending tonight’s Notre Dame game) Stanford to win the Pac-12. That would seem to be the easiest path, relatively speaking, for the Crimson Tide to qualify for a fourth straight playoff, assuming it doesn’t matter who wins the ACC championship game.
Even then, though, you have to wonder if the playoff committee can justify in its own mind putting two teams from the same conference into the tourney while leaving out TWO Power Five conference champions — especially when it’s a team like the Crimson Tide which, despite having just the one loss, carrying such a lackluster and underwhelming résumé into the argument.
And if Ohio State is the Big Ten champion? Wins over No. 10 Penn State, No. 16 Michigan State and what will likely be a No. 2 or No. 3 Wisconsin should make Alabama fans very nervous over their team’s postseason fate — even given OSU’s inexplicable loss to Iowa.