Nick Saban supports Alabama’s entry into the College Football Playoffs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban wasn’t sure who won or lost right after Alabama’s 49-27 win over Auburn across the country Saturday, but he’s certain his team deserves at least consideration for one of the four sports in college football playoffs

The Crimson Tide, who have been in every college football playoff but one since their inception in 2014, would be the first two-losing team to make the playoffs and would clearly need some help getting there.

“I don’t make those decisions, but I know what a resilient football team that was,” Saban told ESPN. “We lost two games against top 10 opponents, both in the last game of the game and away. We could have easily won both games, but we didn’t. We’re a good football team and hopefully people will recognize that and we’ll get a chance [to play in the playoff].”

It’s an Alabama football team that has suffered some scars along the way, whether it’s quarterback Bryce Young’s shoulder injury, unusual penalties and errors, or a defense that has given up a total of 84 points in two Alabama losses. The Tide lost 52-49 at No. 10 Tennessee on a last-second field goal and 32-31 in overtime at No. 5 LSU when the Tigers converted a two-point conversion.

“We had a lot of close games, didn’t always do our best in those games but did enough to get 10 wins and persevered as a team. I think we’ll see what happens now,” Saban said.

Saban wore his own scars after the game. He was accidentally hit in the face by a player’s shoulder pads during a game on the touchline. His left cheek was bloody and his face was lacerated.

“Man, that’s the third time I’ve been hit this season. I never got hit before and I saw stars after this one,” said Saban, who joked he took the hardest hit of the game and didn’t Once Go to the Injury Tent.

Saban said one of the differences in Alabama’s team now is that Young is as healthy as he is, having injured his right throwing shoulder against Arkansas and not playing against Texas A&M. His first game back was on October 15 against Tennessee.

“Bryce played great, but he went for a month where he really couldn’t train,” Saban said. “He was able to come in and play at his same level, but we probably couldn’t grow around him as much as we would have if he could have practiced more. He’s healthy now and that makes us a different team.”

Alabama (10-2) was ranked 7th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings last week. The Tide will need things to fall just right to climb into that top 4, but helped by Clemson, Ohio State and Oregon, all of whom lost on Saturday. A TCU loss in the Big-12 championship game would help, as would a USC loss in the Pac-12 championship game.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren came out on Saturday after Ohio State’s loss to Michigan and said “without a doubt” the Buckeyes deserved a spot in the playoffs. Saban, when asked if he would champion Alabama, said, “Look, if I think it’s going to help our team, I certainly will. I didn’t really think about it up to this point. So, you know, my whole focus was on winning that game. It’s the best opportunity we’ve had for something good to happen for us.”

Saban said one of the things that kept Alabama focused this season was some of the negativity surrounding the team, which also won two games in the dying seconds against Texas and Texas A&M. This is only the fourth time Alabama has lost two games in the regular season since Saban in 2007, and Saban suggested some fans might have just been spoiled.

“A lot of what has been written and said about this team has really united the players,” said Saban. “They said things like, ‘That’s all we have, but all we need is the people in this room.’ … We have great fans tonight and a great stadium and a great atmosphere and we appreciate that and I appreciate that and I know our players do too. But people who are negative and naysayers “If you support the University of Alabama, you are damaging the university or the program because it reflects our culture and how positive we are. And this program was built on positives.”

Saban noted that Alabama had 95,000 fans turning up for the spring game when he first got the job.

“Everyone wanted to be there,” he says. “It wasn’t built on naysayers. It wasn’t built on negatives. It wasn’t built on expectations that if we don’t succeed at a certain level there will be a lot of criticism. I think that actually made this team more than anything else combined, and they wanted to persevere and prove what they could do.”

As for questions about culture on this Alabama team, Saban said those questions usually come up when people are negative and critical.

“The culture of the program here is as good as ever and the players are performing just as well as ever,” said Saban. “So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the culture here. We lost two games by four points. No one feels worse about it than me and the players, who have shown tremendous dedication to try and win these games in difficult places on the road.”