Why Alabama got in over Ohio State and UCF
(written on Dec 12)
If somehow you haven’t heard yet, Alabama was selected as the 4th seed in the college football playoff over a 2-loss conference champion Ohio State, and an undefeated non-“power five” UCF team. This decision has been met with quite a lot of controversy and debate, the most common debate being that Alabama does not have the resume (SOS) and is therefore not qualified to be in the playoff.
“Alabama has no good wins, they lost to the only good team they played and their biggest out of conference win is 6-6 Florida State!” -SEC Skeptics
“Alabama hasn’t beaten any highly ranked teams, they only beat two top 25 teams! We beat three! Two in the top ten!” -Ohio State Fans/Supporters
“Alabama lost to Auburn, Ohio State lost twice, we’re the only undefeated team, why aren’t we in it?” -The UCF Bandwagon and UCF Alumni
These arguments sound solid and would surely push Alabama out of the conversation right?
Let's break down these arguments starting with whom Alabama played.
The first game of the season: Alabama vs Florida State, Number 1 (USA Today) vs Number 2 (USA Today), Number 1 (AP) vs Number 3 (AP), the two preseason championship favorites, “A sneak peak into january”, “The greatest college football opener ever”....
Alabama wins 24-3
Florida State goes on to only win 6 games all year and barely scrape to bowl eligibility. Good win right? Absolutely
The problem with judging Florida State’s 6-6 record is that solely looking at the numbers provides no context or explanation. Florida State did not go 6-6 because they suck. Florida State went 6-6 because they were tortured by injuries on offense most notably to their star quarterback David Francois.
Quarterback is by far the most important position in football, and the importance is even greater in college. Time and time again we have seen good teams lose simply because they were forced to play their backup instead of their starting QB. When Kelly Bryant went down with a concussion, Clemson, the best team in the country, lost to a Syracuse team that would go on to lose the rest of the games they played this year. After Nick Fitzgerald was injured against Arkansas, Miss. State went on to lose to Ole Miss, a team with a good offense, but one of the worst defenses in not only the SEC, but the entire country. UCLA immediately lost any opportunity to come back and beat Washington after Josh Rosen went out with an injury before the half. Same to USC after Sam Darnold was pulled from their game before the half against Notre Dame with an ankle injury. The loss of a quarterback for one game can already be devastating, but for an entire season? In the NFL that would almost always be a sure sign to tank (unless your 3rd string quarterback magically becomes an MVP candidate like Case Keenum). At the time that Alabama beat Florida State, Florida State was still a top 3 team in the country and they looked the part too until Francois left the game with a nasty season ending patella injury. The point is that Alabama beat a championship favorite, badly and almost no other team besides Syracuse and Iowa State can make that argument.
Alabama also lost their 4 linebackers for the season in this game, including one of the country's best linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and still managed to play great defense all year.
On to the next significant game, Ole Miss (let me explain)
After beating Alabama two years in a row, and then nearly beating them until Chad Kelly injured his shoulder last year. It's fair to say Ole Miss, even without Hugh Freeze, should play well against Alabama especially with Shea Patterson at QB. Alabama won 66-3…. Ole Miss by no means has a good defense as I have stated before but they do have a great offense. Shea Patterson’s skill set plays right into Alabama's historic and still prevalent weakness. Quarterbacks who can throw on the move and are quick enough to dodge defenders; Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald, Deshaun Watson, Chad Kelly, Cardale Jones, and Jarrett Stidham are all good examples. Shea Patterson is by no means a bad QB, in fact he was the number 4 recruit in the nation for the class of 2017, yet Alabama held Shea Patterson to negative 16 yards, the least amount of rushing yards in his college career. Is it a great win? No, Ole Miss sucks, but it is significant that Alabama obliterated a team that has was 2 out of the past 3 meetings, that recruits and gameplans around Alabama's weakness that was made even greater with their linebackers missing.
While far from the Johnny Manziel teams that made the Alabama defensive linemen look foolish two years in a row, it is still incredibly difficult to win in College Station, home of the real 12th man. Going into the Alabama game, A&M was averaging 37.4 points per game on 448.2 yards per game, (that's one hell of an offense against any team) but only managed 19 points and barely got to 309 yards against Alabama. Kellen Mond was sacked 4 times and intercepted once. And once again, Kellen Mond is another quarterback that plays into Alabama's weakness. As the number 3 dual-threat QB recruit (behind Ohio State’s Tate Martell and number 1 ranked Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama) one would think Kevin Sumlin would be able to gameplan around using Mond’s feet and Alabama’s lack of linebackers to expose Alabama right? Well that definitely was the game plan but Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison moved down into safety/nickel linebacker hybrid roles and quickly stopped that plan. Alabama went on to win 24-17 with Alabama playing a good amount of their second unit during the 4th.
The LSU game
At the time LSU was ranked 19th, they are now ranked 17th. LSU has the 13th ranked defense while playing 6 top 50 offenses, 6!
“Guice was injured!” -LSU Fans, People who briefly scan the box score to make themselves sound smart
Yeah but Guice is a RB, he has nothing to do with how great this defense is. Alabama put up 24 points on LSU, the most points LSU would allow in a loss all year. Similar to Ole Miss and Texas A&M, this is a rivalry that always seems to bring out the best in LSU even without Les Miles as their coach.
Damn Dan Mullen is an underrated coach and Nick Fitzgerald might be one of the best QBs in college football. With the injuries on defense starting to stack up, (now 5 linebackers injured, Minkah Fitzpatrick playing with a hamstring injury, and Ross Pierschbacher dealing with an ankle injury) this game was going to be tough on Alabama no matter what. The injuries seemed like they were starting to catch up on Alabama but nevertheless, Alabama managed to win this game. Oh Mississippi State also has the 45th ranked offense and the powered their way to10th ranked defense that played 4 top 50 offenses.
We all know what happened in this game. It started off great but Kerryon Johnson’s greatness started getting to Alabama (until he got injured late) and the Alabama offense’s confidence was crushed under the sound of Jordan-Hare Stadium, one of the most difficult places to play in the world of football. If not for Kerryon Johnson’s injury Auburn would have surely won the SEC championship over Georgia and Auburn would still be ranked 1st.
“Ohio State is the conference champ that should matter” -Ohio State Fans
Ohio State played a good, but an absurdly overrated team in Wisconsin.
“They had the number one defense in the country what are you talking about?” -Wisconsin Fans and people who don’t read into the rankings and stats
Until they played Ohio State, Wisconsin had not played a single top 50 offense. Ohio State played one of the worst games I’ve ever seen an Urban Meyer team play, and they still managed 3 50+ yard plays with an injured J.T. Barrett running all over the Wisconsin D-line and throwing what should have been 4 interceptions if it wasn’t for the Wisconsin players dropping two easy interceptions. Wisconsin was an overrated team that got beat by a boom or bust team that looked more like a bust than boom during the game. I know its a conference championship, but the fact of the matter is that Wisconsin was not as good as their ranking and Ohio State exposed that.
“But Ohio State’s a conference champion, that matters even if they have two losses!” -Ohio State fangirls, BIG 10 families who are still stuck in the 80s and early 90s like Cowboys fans
Conference championship doesn’t make the game mean anything more than just another game. That is clearly what the committee believes as two years in a row now they have put in a team over a conference champion. Also, Ohio State lost to Oklahoma badly and got pummel by Iowa to lose by 30, which should put them out of the question no matter what.
“UCF is undefeated why not them?”
Their best wins are USF and twice beating Memphis. I know, UCF has a high powered offense, a good coach, and a great storyline, but they haven’t played anyone. Not a single top 50 defense all year, they haven’t been tested on offense. UCF does have a chance to prove they should’ve at least been top 10 against Auburn in the Peach Bowl, but I doubt they’ll be able to handle Kerryon Johnson and get past the Auburn defense.
What should be learned from this is that just because you have a slightly better resume or are undefeated against shitty teams does not matter more than who is the best team. Alabama is better than these two and that is why they are fourth. They have shown it all year unlike Ohio State, against quality teams unlike UCF.
Try again next year though! ROLL TIDE!