With Alabama’s College Football Playoff future in limbo, coach Nick Saban said on Saturday that there was an argument for his team to be included among the top four and framed the debate over who’s in and who’s out with a single question: How are they playing at present?
The question lends itself to Alabama’s defense, of course. The Crimson Tide, ranked No. 6 by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee last week, have two losses but finished the regular season with three straight wins.
No. 3 TCU suffered its first loss of the season to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game on Saturday.
Appearing on ESPN’s Twitter College Football Show on Saturday, Saban said his team started out the season strong but was impacted by an injury to quarterback Bryce Young during an Oct. 1 win at Arkansas.
Young, who injured his throwing shoulder, didn’t play the following week in a 24-20 win against Texas A&M. He returned and Alabama lost on a walk-off field goal at Tennessee.
But Saban said that even when Young returned to action he wasn’t completely healthy. The former Heisman Trophy winner was limited in practice and was kept on a pitch count. Saban argued that it hindered his team’s development.
Three weeks after losing to Tennessee, Alabama went on the road to LSU and lost in overtime. Alabama bounced back to beat Ole Miss, Austin Peay and Auburn to end the regular season 10-2.
“I think our team played well down the stretch and are playing well at present,” Saban said.
Saban pointed out how both of the Tide’s losses were against teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the time.
“We lost two games on the road to one top-five team, one top-10 team on the last play of the game,” he said. “But now that [Young is] healthier and he’s able to practice, I think we’re a different team, and I think you should look at the circumstances around a 2-loss team versus a 1-loss team and how are they playing at the end of the season? How are they playing at the present?”
Saban said he wanted to add another angle to the debate over who gets in and who is left out. He said it should be asked if they were playing another team, “would they be underdogs?”
“I guess I would ask the question: If we played these teams in question, would we be underdogs in the game or not?” he said. “That should answer everybody’s questions relative to who the best teams are at present. That’s how this should play out.”