There should be discussion. There should be much discussion. On Sunday at 12 p.m., the College Football Playoff committee will disclose the final pairings. However, a significant doubt remains.
However, it must have nothing to do with Alabama. The Crimson Tide should not even be mentioned in the last year of the four-team playoff before the expansion of the tournament to 12 teams next season.
Which team, TCU or Ohio State, will escape heavy favorite and top-ranked Georgia in the semifinals is a coin flip. The No. 3 position is truly up for grabs. Both teams had one impressive victory, TCU over No. 10 Kansas State and Ohio State over No. 8 Penn State, but each has also suffered a defeat, with TCU falling to Kansas State in overtime in the Big 12 championship game.
This should be the committee’s sole point of dispute. After going unbeaten in the formidable SEC, defending national champion Georgia must be No. 1, followed by Michigan at No. 2. Both teams had a handful of excellent victories. Each institution has been dominant a majority of the time.
USC’s overwhelming loss in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday night eliminated the Trojans and pushed Ohio State into a playoff position. Some believe that Alabama should be in contention following TCU’s tight victory on Saturday, but I find this notion to be both deluded and impractical.
Nick Saban AP
In the past eight years of the postseason, no club with two losses has been chosen. Alabama has lost twice. More importantly, it lacks a genuine victory. The Crimson Tide’s biggest victory came against No. 20 Texas, who played without starting quarterback Quinn Ewers for the majority of the game due to injury.
Though Alabama’s two defeats to No. 7 Tennessee and No. 14 LSU were by a combined four points, Nick Saban’s squad also narrowly defeated non-contenders Texas A&M and Mississippi. The Tide might very well suffer a third defeat. Let’s compare: TCU and Ohio State have one fewer loss than Alabama and a far more impressive victory at the top of their respective resumes than Alabama. Alabama is 3-2 on the road, while TCU and Ohio State do not have a road defeat.
Alabama’s case is that it is one of the four greatest teams in the country based on appearances. The Crimson Tide were never blasted away, like Ohio State was by Michigan, and they did not require as many weekly late comebacks as TCU. But actual outcomes must matter. The quality of victory cannot be ignored.
This year does not belong to Alabama. TCU and Ohio State have this capability.
Regarding the No. 3 team, I would give Ohio State a tiny advantage. The Ohio State Buckeyes were more consistent than TCU, play in a better league, and had two top-25 victories, over Penn State and No. 21 Notre Dame, to TCU’s one. I am confident that the committee will also organize it this way, in part because it would set up a must-see contest between Ohio State and Michigan. Since Ohio State and TCU are so comparable in terms of their whole body of work, why not create a television-ready spectacle?
However, one can make a case for either TCU or Ohio State at No. 3. However, there is no reason for Alabama’s inclusion in the last year of the four-team playoff.