Friday, February 3

College football playoff: Alabama could put the two-loss rule to the test, and it won’t like the final answer



Alabama could have a chance to rewrite yet another rule when it comes to the college football playoff.

No two-loss team has made it to the CFP since it started in 2014. No. 2 Alabama (9-1) is the highest-ranked team with a loss behind No. 1 Georgia (10-0). CFP selection committee chair Gary Barta said there was a debate for the No. 2 spot with No. 3 from Oregon and No. 4 from Ohio State.

“I can tell you that 2, 3 and 4 was an area where the conversation was a bit longer,” Barta said. “I mentioned earlier, we didn’t learn much about Alabama this week, but we’re still impressed with the way they play on both sides of the ball. There was a good conversation about where Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State should be located.”

MORE: Barta Explains Choice To Rank Michigan Ahead Of Michigan State

If Crimson Tide wins, then they will stay ahead of the Ducks and Buckeyes and likely take the No. 1 seed in a two-team SEC scenario with Georgia. That will be mostly undisputed.

So what happens if Alabama loses? Would a two-loss Crimson Tide team be prepared to break some of the CFP’s unwritten guidelines and become the first two-loss team to make the playoffs? The bases for this debate are already being developed in two scenarios.

Alabama could lose to Arkansas or Auburn in one of its last two games and then beat Georgia in the SEC championship game. Or Alabama could lose to the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game. If it’s close, would Crimson Tide still make the playoffs?

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MORE: Latest CFP Rankings

Look at the two top-ranked defeated teams in the final CFP standings to see where you could end up.

The highest ranked team with two defeats in the final CFP standings

YEAR SCHOOL REGISTRATION FINAL RANK
2014 State of mississippi 10-2 7
2015. Stanford * 11-2 6
2016 Penn State * 11-2 5
2017. State of Ohio * 11-2 5
2018 Georgia** 11-2 5
2019 Georgia** 11-2 5
2020 Oklahoma* 8-2 6

* Denotes champion of the conference
** Denotes runner-up of the conference

Georgia landed No. 5 in back-to-back seasons, including in 2018 when the Bulldogs lost a 35-28 thriller to Alabama in the SEC championship game. However, there was no window for the playoffs with Alabama (13-0), Clemson (13-0), Notre Dame (12-0) and Oklahoma (12-1).

This year’s field is very different. Georgia could clinch a playoff berth simply with a 12-0 record in the regular season. The rest of the crowd of Power 5 contenders for a loss will shrink in the coming weeks.

Ohio State (9-1) plays No. 7 Michigan State (9-1) and No. 6 Michigan (9-1) the next two weeks. No. 9 Oklahoma State (9-1) and No. 13 Oklahoma (9-1) could meet twice, and the Big 12 could still be on the outside looking in. Oregon (9-1) is an underdog this week at Utah (7-3) in the Pac-12.

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So let’s say Georgia beats Alabama in a close game and Ohio State and Oregon hold their spots. Who would Crimson Tide have to wait to stay?

A Big 12 champion with a loss? An ACC champion with a loss if No. 10 Wake Forest (9-1) wins? No. 8 Notre Dame (9-1) without a conference championship? Alabama could win those debates with relative ease.

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Ultimately, it all comes down to a question that the committee might be forced to answer. If No. 5 Cincinnati (10-0) wins, then would the committee let in the first team in Group 5 or the first team with two losses?

Cincinnati should be the team to enter at that point. The Bearcats have a top-10 win against Notre Dame, an unbeaten record and can help themselves by dominating SMU, East Carolina and probably Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship. If they don’t let a Group of 5 school in at that time, what’s the point of having G5 schools in the top 25 rankings?

Still, Alabama could be the team to get the No. 4 spot, and the CFP committee will use any justification for that to happen. Crimson Tide’s best win is against Ole Miss, a two-loss team that could break the sixth day of New Years. The SEC schedule strength argument will come into play, and the phrase “put Alabama on neutral ground against (insert team here)” will be used for all teams that eliminate. Wait until Alabama coach Nick Saban plays politics.

The committee has already set a dangerous precedent by putting Michigan ahead of Michigan state in the past two weeks. What will stop them from writing their own statutes with Alabama?

They did so in 2018 when Alabama made it to the CFP despite not being in the SEC championship game. Crimson Tide agreed with them with a 26-23 victory against Georgia in the CFP championship.

Alabama, like it or not, operates by its own set of rules. Fair or not (not fair), that could lead to the first team with two losses reaching the CFP.

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If that’s what it is, then that conversation Barta referenced about placing the top four teams won’t take as long as you might think.




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