Each year that Alabama loses a regular season game, Nick Saban and company always manage to remain in playoff contention.
With two regular season losses this year, however, making the College Football Playoff (CFP) is a daunting task for the Crimson Tide.
During the BCS era, Alabama earned the No. 2 ranking in 2011 after failing to win the SEC West Division. The Tide went on to avenge its only loss that year, which came at the hands of LSU by way of a 9-6 thriller at Bryant-Denny in November. In the rematch, Saban and his Kirby Smart-coordinated defense dominated the Tigers 21-0 for the national championship.
Once again failing to clinch its own division in 2017 after losing to Auburn, Alabama sneaked into the CFP as the No. 4 seed. The Tide would go on to defeat Georgia in dramatic fashion in the national championship.
The aforementioned 2011 and 2017 seasons prove that precedent exists for Alabama still winning the national championship absent a divisional title.
The CFP selection committee unveiled its weekly rankings Tuesday, which saw the Tide come in at No. 7.
Can the Tide earn a playoff spot once again? Alabama has a 12% chance to make the CFP, according to ESPN’s playoff predictor. As it does not control its own destiny, the Crimson Tide needs chaos to ensue atop the contention field to have a shot.
Let’s explore the avenues that could devastate the college football world and lead Alabama to earn another playoff bid. Note that this depends upon the Tide taking care of business in the upcoming Iron Bowl.
A Georgia loss?
No. 1 Georgia takes on unranked Georgia Tech. This is a must-win game for the Yellow Jackets if they wish to become bowl eligible. It is unlikely that Georgia will fall to its in-state “rival.” Even with a loss, it is highly plausible that the Bulldogs would still remain in the playoff hunt.
Ohio State vs. Michigan
This one is tricky. Respectively coming in at No. 2 and No. 3, Ohio State and Michigan would likely not take a drastic fall in the rankings as the defeated team would only hold one loss headed into the Big Ten Conference Championship Game.
It is probable that the losing team would not fall behind a two-loss Alabama.
TCU on upset alert?
The No. 4 Horned Frogs escaped a loss to unranked Baylor last week by way of a game-winning field goal. TCU takes on 4-7 Iowa State at home Saturday. Could the Cyclones pull off an upset? Anything is possible. Tide fans need to sport their gold and cardinal colors this weekend in a passionate way.
Should TCU prevail Saturday, it must continue its winning ways in the Big 12 Championship Game if the Horned Frogs wish to remain in contention.
A TCU loss would likely see Alabama gain one spot in the CFP rankings.
No. 5 LSU handed the Tide its second loss of the season in overtime at Tiger Stadium. Had Alabama taken care of business, it would still control its own fate. The Crimson Tide, while it may not be happy about this, needs to fiercely cheer for Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M on Saturday.
The Aggies have had an underwhelming season, posting a 1-6 record in SEC play. The Tigers roll into Aggie land, where the 12th man will look to give LSU all it can handle.
All is not lost, however, if LSU beats Texas A&M. The Tigers still must face Georgia in Atlanta for the SEC championship. A three-loss LSU team will be out of playoff contention.
Once again, an LSU loss would see the Tide bumped up an additional spot in the rankings.
Can the Fighting Irish beat USC?
This is the game that has the best upset possibility. No. 6 USC hosts No. 15 Notre Dame in what has been a traditionally competitive matchup. Lincoln Riley and the Trojans fended off UCLA in a 48-45 thriller last week. Could USC experience a hangover and lose to Notre Dame this Saturday? Alabama fans hope this will be the case.
All crimson eyes must be on this game if the Tide faithful hope to stand a chance at making the CFP. A Trojan loss would see Alabama elevate its ranking by one spot.
It is important to note that USC still has the PAC 12 championship to play on Dec. 2.
Clemson could stand in the way, once again
Ranked No. 8 behind the Crimson Tide, Clemson could possibly jump Alabama in the final rankings if Dabo Swinney and company win their remaining games. However, the remaining two games left on Clemson’s schedule are challenging.
Saturday, the Tigers take on South Carolina. The Gamecocks are coming off a dominant victory against the high-powered Tennessee offense. This matchup is no sure thing for Clemson.
Next week, Clemson is set to take on No. 17 North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game. A loss in the ACC finale would all but ensure the Tigers lose out on a playoff bid, thus working in favor of the Crimson Tide.
As evidenced by the selection committee’s No. 7 ranking of the Tide, Alabama holds a strong playoff resume. A total of four points stand in the way of Alabama being undefeated: a three-point loss in Knoxville and a one-point defeat from LSU.
Bottom line, Tide fans: Root for upsets and hope chaos ensues. Crazier things have happened, as evidenced by the title rings owned by former Tide greats in the Saban era.
Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL