After the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, which found out they would be playing the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Sunday, came back to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban made the case that the Bulldogs should still be in the College Football Playoff.
Georgia finished at No. 5 in the final playoff rankings, and the Bulldogs did not trail Alabama until a go-ahead rushing touchdown by Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts with 1:04 left in the fourth quarter.
“This was a great team win,” Saban said in his postgame address on Saturday in Atlanta. “I think the other thing is people have to give Georgia a lot of credit. They really played us better than anybody’s played us all year. We played in a game here where we won 32-28, when we played Notre Dame in a National Championship Game, and Georgia was the best team. They were — they deserve to be in the Championship Game. Based on the team that we’ve played this year, I think this team deserves to be in the playoff as well. I sure as hell don’t want to play them again, but that’s the best compliment I can give you or give them.”
While Saban may have thought that the Bulldogs deserved to be in the playoff on Saturday night, his Week 15 Amway Coaches Poll ballot certainly didn’t reflect that. It should be noted that some coaches have been known to let the Sports Information Director at their school submit their ballots since the coaches usually don’t get to watch other games outside of their own on Saturdays. However, Saban’s choices are still interesting.
Not only did the Alabama coach rank Georgia No. 5 in his Coaches Poll ranking, Saban also ranked his own team No. 2 behind Clemson. The Tigers, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State, in that order, were ranked as the top six teams in Saban’s ballot.
We don’t know how much input Saban had on his final vote, but ranking Georgia No. 5 after his passionate defense of the Bulldogs as a team deserving of the playoff was odd. Dropping Alabama to No. 2 is also puzzling.
Perhaps Saban’s Coaches Poll vote was a case of wishful thinking? Was he hoping that the playoff committee would actually drop the Crimson Tide to No. 2, too? That would have meant Alabama matched up with Notre Dame instead of Oklahoma in the semifinal. While the Fighting Irish did well to finish the season 12-0, they won’t present the same challenges on offense that the Sooners will bring with likely Heisman Trophy finalist — dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray.
But of course, that’s just speculation and there is no way for us to know what Saban, or whoever actually filled out the ballot, was really thinking. It doesn’t matter now that the committee has spoken anyway, and the Crimson Tide will soon begin to prepare for Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and his historic Sooners offense.
“(Oklahoma is) a pretty dynamic group,” Saban said on Sunday. “They’ve got a lot of weapons, they make a lot of explosive plays.”
The Sooners head coach knows Alabama will be a tough out as well.
“(Alabama is) a great team, that’s pretty obvious,” Riley said. “They’ve had a great run and a historic run in college football in the last several years with Coach Saban. I know this team is fantastic. We’ll be looking forward to the challenge.”