Alabama has the brand. It has the tradition, the coach and the clout – it even has the respect of the college football playoffs selection commission, despite a weak schedule – but for the first time in six seasons, the Crimson Tide may not have the makings of finishing in the top four.
After losing No. 3 Alabama at home to LSU No. 2 on Saturday, it missed its only chance of dazzling the selection committee with a blockbuster victory. Now the Tide has almost no chance to win the SEC – they would have to win and see the Tigers to lose two of their last three games against 4-6 Ole Miss, 2-8 Arkansas and 6-3 Texas A & M's only for a chance to win their division. Without a conference championship, Alabama must prove that it is "clearly" one of the four best teams in the country. This seems to be a big task given that the next three games against Mississippi State will be defeated five times, FCS Western Carolina and Auburn. And the so far submissive schedule of the Tide ̵
The LSU, on the other hand, was a great case to take first place in the state of Ohio in the ranking on Tuesday (7 pm ET, ESPN and ESPN App), while Alabama may only be in 4th place as the best-placed one-loss team falls. But that's because the committee does not look to the future.
"The committee's job is to enter the room with a blank piece of paper, which means that we start with an open mind when we consider the strengths and weaknesses of each team, from the opening day until last Saturday, "said Rob Mullen's selection committee chairman last week. "Nothing else matters."
While it's impossible to predict what 13 people will do on the selection day, remember how things change on the championship weekend when the last piece of the resume is added and the committee must follow the given protocol to do so FBS Conference Commissars and Notre Dame Sports Director Jack Swarbrick:
Strict schedule, head-to-head competition, and won championships must be specifically applied as a tiebreaker between teams that might look similar in trouble – if the committee tides for "similar" holds like the winners of the Pac-12 or Big-12 and enforces the use of these tiebreakers.
In each of the last three seasons, the committee has voted a top 4 team that has not won a conference title: Ohio State (2016), Alabama (2017) and Notre Dame (2018). While these three storylines are often mentioned and still discussed, they are also not the norm, as 17 of the last 20 semi-finalists were conference masters.
2017 saw Alabama finish fourth despite losing to Auburn and not having won SEC West for two more victories against LSU and the state of Mississippi. This season Auburn would be the only opponent they beat, provided the Tide wins.
That could be important if Alabama is part of a debate with Oregon and Auburn takes fourth place as Auburn is a common opponent and the ducks lost 27-21 to Auburn in the season opener. Alabama's playoff hopes would not only win convincingly, but also increase dramatically if Oklahoma loses and the Pac-12 spawns a two-time conference champion.
Alabama is the only program in the country that lands in the top four In each season of the short existence of the playoffs, but after Saturday, this series is in danger. The committee has to ask this question on 8 December. Three more questions pertain to this week:
Who is No. 1?
The Selection Committee took first place in the state of Ohio last week, "because of their overall consistent dominance in the week and their strength in attack and defense," said Mullens. Nothing that the state of Ohio has done in its 73-14 win over Maryland changes that rating, but the LSU now has wins against Team # 3 (Alabama), Team # 10 (Florida) and Team No 11 (Auburn). It also has a road victory against Texas without rank, which is now 5-3.
How high is Minnesota?
In the history of the CFP rankings, no team has achieved more than six places in the ranking Top 10, but No. 17 Minnesota has a chance to change that after defeating the 4th Penn State. What is the Golden Gophers Ceiling? At the moment, it's probably # 9 or # 10 and probably the Nittany Lions, provided the committee appreciates the direct result. Though a monumental victory for the program, remember that Minnesota defeated South Dakota 28-21, needed double overtime to defeat Fresno, and defeated Georgia Southern 35-32. Penn State was the first high-ranking opponent the Gophers faced all season. It was a big step in the right direction, but probably not enough to overcome an otherwise terrible schedule and really make a push for the top four. But if Minnesota wins against Iowa and Wisconsin and defeats Ohio to win the Big Ten? Then it's time to talk about playoffs.
Tanner Morgan throws three touchdown passes and Minnesota's defense awaits with three interceptions as the Golden Gophers defeat Penn State between 31 and 26.
] Can the Big Ten still take on two teams?
It is still possible, but less likely, because a combination of victory for Penn State, unbeaten win for Minnesota and / or unbeaten victory for Ohio State or unbeaten win for Minnesota would occur at a loss. The first scenario is when Penn State heads the table and avenges the regular-time defeat to an undefeated Minnesota team in the Big Ten title game. The selection committee could think about the runaway Big Ten champion Penn State, the runaway runner-up Minnesota and the lone Ohio State.
Another option would be for Ohio State and Minnesota to both make unbeaten entry into the Big Ten title game and the committee considered both the winner and runner-up. The only thing that seems safe for now is that Penn State has lost its chance to participate without a conference win. The Nittany Lions are likely to defeat the state of Ohio and head the table to finish in the top four.
Remember that the second best team in the Big Ten will have the same load as Alabama, and the committee must conclude "clearly" one of the four best teams in the country. Would the second best team in the Big Ten outperform the Pac-12 champion? The Big 12 Champion? Alabama?
Any team not playing on December 7 can only hope.