TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – It’s time to watch the scoreboards.
Assuming Alabama can defeat Crimson Tide Auburn and finish the regular season 10-2, his college football playoff scrutiny resume is complete. It includes three wins against ranked teams, plus a narrow win in Texas and two final-game losses in brutally difficult venues.
Will it be enough?
It could be, but we won’t know for at least a week.
The short version is that Alabama fans need to root hard against every team ahead of them in the rankings, known by their initials LSU, TCU and USC.
Now for the much longer explanation, which fortunately isn’t as messy as the Heisman Trophy hunt:
At No. 7 heading into the weekend, Alabama needed help and No. 8 Clemson for a possible failure to skip.
It has both.
For the second straight week, South Carolina came to the rescue, to the point that it should at least result in a Christmas card from Crimson Tide athletic director Greg Byrne. After routing and eliminating Tennessee from the game last week, it ended the ACC’s budding hopes with a 31-30 win at Clemson.
It also made it highly unlikely that another team could overtake Alabama (Oregon, Tennessee, Penn State, etc.).
So it just depends on how many teams stumble in front of it.
The key is #5 LSU (9-2). It has to lose, either tonight at Texas A&M or next week against No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game. The league filling half the field with four teams is more than a strong possibility, but three teams is a reach unless TCU and USC fall apart entirely.
Alabama needed the Michigan-Ohio State game not to be close, and it wasn’t. The Wolverines pulled off an impressive 45-23 win, their first win in Columbus since 2000.
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No. 2 Ohio State (11-1), losing by more than three touchdowns, could have done it in the Buckeyes. On the plus side for them, there’s a 21-10 season-opener win over Notre Dame and the 44-31 win at Penn State — that’s the one to really hang its hat on.
The Fighting Irish had a new coach and initially struggled, losing to Marshall the following week. Penn State was No. 13 at the time, and heading into this weekend was No. 11. Is that enough to keep Ohio State ahead of Alabama? Probably not.
Still, it will be an interesting discussion for the selection committee before they release this week’s rankings on Tuesday night.
TCU #4 was big in the state of Iowa when this story was first published and is playing in the Big 12 Championship Game next week. With five wins against ranked opponents including Texas, the Horned Frogs could potentially stay ahead of Alabama if they lose next week, but it could all come down to the eye test.
Alabama was ahead of TCU in the first rankings before losing to LSU.
At the time, selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan said: “We’re looking at the whole of the game as we go through Arkansas, the narrow win in Texas. Bryce Young missed the Texas A&M game which was close and again TCU with the wins against Oklahoma State at home and Kansas State at home, really good wins, really good team. But we felt like it. The defense sometimes struggled to keep points off the board, but that doesn’t detract from the season so far.”
No. 6 USC (10-1) hosts No. 15 Notre Dame tonight and still has the Pac-12 championship game against another ranked opponent with a win. to be determined. Last week’s 48-45 win over then-No. 16 is the Trojans’ only win against a league table this season.
Two things that shouldn’t go into the decision-making process but could help the Crimson Tide cause are Nick Saban’s playoff record in Alabama and the obvious appeal of seeing a potential repeat of last year’s national championship pitting the Crimson Tide against Georgia competes again in Atlanta.
This story will be updated through Saturday evening.
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