Alabama is sitting at No. 5 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, and even though that appears oh-so-close to the top four, the very real possibility exists that the Crimson Tide could end the season where they sit right now.
On the outside looking in.
After the Tide lost at home to LSU on Saturday, all the quibbling started about how the selection committee would balance a tough loss that came down to the wire with Alabama's less-than-stellar schedule. Would the committee keep the Tide in the top four as one of the unequivocal best teams in the country or would it drop them out because a loss combined with no top-25 wins made it impossible to justify the ranking?
In the end, the committee went with Georgia at No. 4, one slot ahead of Alabama. Though Georgia has a loss that is far worse (to a South Carolina team that just lost to Appalachian State), the Bulldogs also have two wins over top-16 teams, and those wins were enough to overcome such a bad loss in the eyes of the committee.
Though nothing is out of the realm of the possibility, the message for the night is this: If Alabama is not playoff-worthy now, how will it be able to spiff up its résumé with only one top-25 game left on its schedule and, at least right now, no shot at playing in the SEC championship game?
For those Tide fans wanting any sliver of hope, there is this: Alabama is outside the top four for the first time since Nov. 28, 2017, when it also was No. 5. Alabama won the national championship that season. That is the same season Alabama made it in after not being a conference champion.
Alabama also plays in the SEC, the only conference in position to get two teams in the playoff right now. The committee continues to buy into the SEC hype, what with three teams in the top five for the third time since the CFP formed. The SEC, by the way, is the only conference to ever do this once, let alone three times. The Allstate Playoff Predictor gives Alabama a 40.5% to make it right now, the fourth-best chance.
So no, we cannot officially count out Alabama. But it is safe to say the Crimson Tide are going to need chaos if they are to climb back into the top four, not only for all the reasons listed earlier, but because the SEC once again is completely stacked in the eyes of the committee.
If one-loss Georgia wins the SEC championship over undefeated LSU, it is reasonable to expect LSU to be in the conversation for the final spot -- ahead of champions from the Pac-12 and Big 12. Neither of those conferences has an undefeated team in the mix, leaving the door open for a one-loss SEC team to nudge them out.
If Georgia loses at Auburn this weekend but beats undefeated LSU in the SEC championship game, then the question becomes trickier. Does a two-loss SEC champion automatically go? Would one-loss LSU be in better position than Georgia after having lost the SEC championship game? And would that potentially open the door for Alabama to slide back in?
Indeed, No. 12 Auburn could very well be the one team to sow the most chaos that could most directly benefit its nemesis, a thought that is sure to send shivers down any Alabama fan's spine. Of course, Alabama has to win out for any of this to remain a possibility.
Let's also remember that these rankings are a snapshot in time, and though the committee felt one-loss Georgia and one-loss Alabama should be ahead of one-loss Oregon (which already lost to Auburn, by the way), it is not necessarily an absolute indicator for the Pac-12 moving forward. Nor is it an absolute indicator that undefeated Baylor is sitting at No. 13 -- or undefeated Minnesota at No. 8, for that matter. Though Alabama does not have a great strength of schedule, the committee clearly does not hold the Baylor or Minnesota schedules in high regard, either. But if those two teams finish out as undefeated conference champions, how would the committee judge them if one-loss Alabama is sitting in the mix?
The same goes for a one-loss Pac-12 champion. Would that team, say Utah or Oregon, move ahead of a one-loss Alabama team by virtue of a conference championship victory?
Alabama has never missed the College Football Playoff. And though this team was among the biggest favorites to make it back into the top four and face a potential rematch with Clemson, those prospects must rely on a lot of help from others.
Maybe help that's impossible to get.