Despite being ranked No. 1 throughout the season and specifically in every College Football Playoff Top 25 thus far, there’s no guarantee Alabama would reach the final four if it loses one of its next two games, College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit says.
Herbstreit previewed several chaos scenarios involving the Crimson Tide during Tuesday night’s reveal show on ESPN.
“I need an hour here to (discuss) the scenarios and all the games,” Herbstreit said. “Let’s say Clemson wins and Notre Dame wins out, it could come down to a debate between more than likely Michigan and Alabama. The committee would have to take into consideration where Alabama has been all year, to be candid. I think unless Alabama goes out and just dominates Auburn and then barely loses to Georgia, I think there would be a very strong case that Alabama would be left out and Michigan would go ahead of them.
“I don’t think it’s as simple as, Alabama, just get to Atlanta. They can lose no problem, they’re still in the Playoff. I think there’s too many good teams right now hovering around that Top 4. I think it would very hard if Michigan, Clemson and Notre Dame were to win and Georgia were to beat Alabama, I wish I could make a case, but I think Alabama would be left out.”
There’s also speculation nationally that unbeaten Clemson is actually gaining on Alabama in the Playoff rankings. Selection committee chair Rob Mullens said Tuesday night that’s not necessarily the case, despite the Tigers’ recent dominance over a soft schedule.
“It’s similar to the discussion we’ve had the last few weeks. I don’t think much has changed. I think it’s been pretty consistent,” Mullens said on ESPN. “We see two well-balanced teams, efficient on offense, strong on defense, that perform week in and week out. So I think it’s been very consistent how the committee has viewed it, but we do have a responsibility to make sure we take a deep dive each week, and we’ve done that.”
And considering Alabama takes on Auburn, then fifth-ranked Georgia over its next two games while Dabo Swinney’s team has South Carolina and Pitt, the Crimson Tide’s stay at No. 1 will continue entering the postseason if both teams win out.
One interesting note? ESPN’s latest Playoff Predictor indicates there’s only a 19 percent chance the current Top 4 remains the same before Playoff semifinal matchups are announced. That’s a maximum of seven total games — four from Alabama and Clemson, one for Notre Dame (at USC) and two for Michigan (at Ohio State, vs. Northwestern in Big Ten Championship).
Alabama has met Clemson in the Playoff three consecutive seasons if it feels like we’re heading toward a similar setting once again.
“I still would have to get Alabama a little bit of an edge, but the defense overall for Clemson has been about as good as advertised,” he said. “I think we’ve been trending toward that potential matchcup since late August and clearly those are the top two teams in college football right now.”