John Amis/Associated Press
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban apparently doesn’t think his team is the best in the country despite its status as defending national champions with an undefeated record and SEC crown.
Michael Casagrande of AL.com cited USA Today‘s database of polls and pointed out Saban had the Crimson Tide at No. 2 in his final poll behind the undefeated Clemson Tigers. Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State round out his top six.
It is notable Saban had the Sooners ahead of the Bulldogs in his final poll considering his quote after Alabama’s 35-28 victory in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.
“They are one of the four best teams in the country,” he said of Georgia, per Tony Barnhart of the SEC Network. “I don’t want to play them again. That is the ultimate compliment I can give them.”
He won’t have to play them again this season, as the Sooners were awarded with the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings and will have the opportunity to dethrone the champions in the Orange Bowl.
To Saban’s credit, Alabama didn’t look like the best team in the country for extended stretches of Saturday’s game when it fell behind 28-14 in the second half. It also lost Heisman Trophy contender Tua Tagovailoa to injury, though Jalen Hurts led a dramatic comeback to clinch the conference crown and a spot in the four-team playoff.
By comparison, Clemson destroyed an overmatched Pittsburgh team, 42-10, in the ACC Championship Game to compete a 13-0 season that featured 11 wins by double digits. Only Texas A&M and Syracuse were able to stay within single digits of the Tigers.
The Crimson Tide will have the chance to prove to their coach they are better than Clemson if they meet in the national title game, which would mark the fourth straight playoff the two powerhouses played against each other.
For now, Saban can use the slight as motivation to his players—even if he was the one who created the slight by voting Alabama No. 2.