- Alabama’s loss to Auburn hurt their shot to get into the College Football Playoff.
- The Crimson Tide now need help to get into the playoff.
- Alabama would still have control over its own destiny if Auburn lost to Georgia.
Alabama has been the most dominant team in college football for a decade and have lost just once this year, but if the College Football Playoff teams were chosen today, the Crimson Tide would not be one of the final four.
Alabama’s resume is certainly flawed. They lack impressive wins over top-ten teams. They lost to Auburn rather handedly and, more importantly, late in the season. There is also more parity at the top this season with a bunch of one-loss teams that feel pretty interchangeable.
But Bama’s biggest problem is that the game with the biggest impact on their season was a game they had no control over – Georgia losing to Auburn.
That loss turned out to be a bigger blow to Alabama than their own, and the reason shows just how quirky college football has become.
Few people would argue that college football’s old system is better than the current incarnation. But the old system was actually more straight-forward. You just rooted for your favourite team to win and for everybody else to lose. But that has changed. Now, a team’s biggest enemies are now its friends, except in special circumstances, and one of those hit Bama this season.
Remember the old shirts that read, “My favourite teams are [insert your favourite team] and whoever is playing [insert favourite team’s biggest rival]”? That axiom no longer applies in college football. Now you root for your team and you root for your team’s rivals, except, when they play your team. The reason is simple: You want that hated rival to have a good record when your team beats them so that it looks better on your team’s resume.
This puts teams like Alabama in a weird situation where they actually want their hated rival Auburn to win all their games that are not against the Crimson Tide.
But there are always exceptions to rules, and one of those exceptions happened to Alabama this season.
Normally, a win by Auburn over No. 1 Georgia would have been good for Alabama no matter what happened in the Iron Bowl. If Alabama had beaten Auburn, they would have added an impressive win over a top-ten team. If Bama lost, as they did in this case, well, if you’re going to lose, it’s better to lose to higher-ranked teams.
But this year, Auburn’s win over then-No. 1 Georgia actually hurt Bama.
If Georgia had beaten Auburn, Alabama would have clinched the SEC West before the Iron Bowl. If Bama then beat Auburn, it wouldn’t have changed anything. They would have still been in the top four and set to face Georgia in the SEC championship game with both teams possibly headed to the playoff no matter the outcome.
But here is where it gets quirky.
If Auburn had beaten Alabama after losing to Georgia, it would have been a better situation for Bama than the one they currently find themselves in. The Tide would have fallen to fifth, sixth or seventh, but they would still be playing No. 1 Georgia in the SEC title game and would get into the playoff with a win. Instead, Auburn plays Georgia and Bama sits out Championship Weekend.
In other words, Alabama’s position would have been better if they were facing a lesser Auburn team that had lost to Georgia, as the Tide would have still controlled their own destiny.
That’s the new college football universe we live in. It’s better than it was, but sometimes, the most important game of a team’s season isn’t even on their own schedule.