Stephen's Report

Three reasons college football media fears Alabama should it make playoff

Matthew Emmons - USA TODAY Sports

History makes people view things. 

In the case of the University of Alabama football program, history confirms on quite a few accounts of how the Crimson Tide returns with vengeance after taking a loss. Whether one choses to target its four national championships or three consecutive appearances in the College Football Playoff since 2014, Alabama finds motivation in bouncing back from shortcomings. 

Even though frustration set in following a loss to Auburn and media pundits lobbying for the Tide not to have a fourth trip to the playoff, head coach Nick Saban is on the outside looking in at No. 5 and college football knows what will happen if chalk doesn’t hold serve. 

As it stands, the Tide will need a win from either TCU (Big 12 title game) or Ohio State (close victory in Big Ten title game) in order to advance. Despite emphasis on an Auburn win in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game not being highly stressed, a win for the Tigers makes Alabama’s loss to them seem more compelling.

Contrary to popular belief and forms of common sense, the College Football Playoff committee sees a razor thin line between Nos. 5 through 8 – Alabama, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State – which is perplexing seeing how both of the Buckeyes’ losses came via double-digits, including a 31-point defeat against Iowa.  

Regardless of being idle, Alabama’s coaching staff, players and fan base will be glued to television this weekend in hopes for more chaos to ensue. Should its wish be granted, there are three reasons as to why college football will fear a return of the Tide to a top-four seed.  

1. Players healthy

For Alabama to have one loss (and it being competitive) with all the adjustments on defenses needed because of injuries, it speaks to the recruiting power, toughness and overall chemistry within the program in having the “next man up” mantra.

After not having linebackers Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis for matchups following the Florida State game, the Tide depended on Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings and Dylan Moses upon their returns against Vanderbilt. 

Mishaps to Da’Shawn Hand, Mack Wilson, Trevon Diggs, Shaun Dion Hamilton, LaBryan Ray and Hootie Jones were difficult, Alabama continues to plug and play. Aside from Hamilton and Jones (knee), this team will have everyone else back healthy if the Tide makes the playoff. 

Losing guys like Reuben Foster, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson and Jonathan Allen to the National Football League was going to be an issue, but with the players returning, Alabama’s defense was still pegged to be a group positioned to create much havoc throughout the year. 

The injuries slowed it down and led to a critical loss; however, with the majority of guys returning and should chaos abound – don’t be surprised to see the amount of teams that won’t desire to face Saban and company moving forward. 

2. Saban is a master game planner

When you give Nick Saban time to prepare for an opponent, the end result does not fare well for opposition nine times out of 10 tries. Alabama’s 21-0 dominant performance over Louisiana State University in the 2012 BCS national championship game (2011 season) is one of many prime examples of Saban’s preparation.

In the first matchup, the Tide went with the run game and defense in a 9-6 loss in the regular season. However, it chose to throw the ball on first down in the national title game –  off setting the timing of the Tigers’ defense in New Orleans, La. 

During last season’s CFP semifinal against Washington, Alabama was well prepared on defense for quarterback Jake Browning and company as it limited Chris Peterson’s offense to 194 total yards and seven points in a 24-7 victory in Atlanta.

In the losses he’s taken in Tuscaloosa, Saban consistently fine tunes the errors and has the Tide playing mistake free football moving forward. 

3. UA produces high ratings and good games in pressure situations

Excluding the 2009 Allstate Sugar Bowl (2008 season) versus Utah and 2014 Sugar Bowl (2013 season) against Oklahoma, Alabama has not lost a bowl/playoff game by two scores or more.  

There are three groups of people watching football where the Crimson Tide is concerned: Alabama fans, Alabama haters and those who don’t have a team in the fight, but because of the Alabama brand, they roll with the Tide. 

Seeing all the personalities it laid off and number of legal analyst talking about protesting the American flag and kneeling for the national anthem among other things, ESPN is in a compromise financially.

College football is the ace in the hole for the brand, and arguably the team that guarantees television contracts, high ratings and a competitive game is Alabama.  

Ohio State, on the other hand, has already shown its vulnerability in a playoff game. 

Behind Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes were shutout 31-0 against Clemson in the Orange Bowl last season for one of two semifinal contests. Also, the Big Ten as a whole has been outscored 69-0 in the last two CFP semifinal games.

In its losses to Ohio State and Clemson, Alabama fell by a combined 11 points – making the case that the Tide keeps you engaged throughout matchups. 

In conclusion

All in all, Tide fans are hoping for chalk to not stick. 

Should all teams in the top four finish with wins, Alabama will take his anger out on Miami in the Orange Bowl. A TCU victory over Oklahoma or Ohio State squeaker over Wisconsin lines up Alabama for the perfect opportunity to turn up the heat and push for a national championship. 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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