Thirsty Alabama fans watching conference championship games from afar this weekend should consider saying these words to their bartender: “I’ll have a boilermaker, please.”
A drink that doubles as a Big Ten mascot could be just the luck the Crimson Tide needs to enter the College Football Playoff picture.
No. 6 Alabama’s chaos-required Hail Mary hope of reaching the playoff may benefit from the unranked Purdue Boilermakers (8-4) beating Michigan in the Big Ten Championship – in blowout fashion.
Devoted readers of this column know my stance of Alabama’s playoff résumé . In short, it lacks one.
We’ve been through this: The Tide’s best win came at No. 20 Texas, which played its backup quarterback for the final three quarters. Alabama (10-2) lost to teams with a combined five losses. It did not play the SEC’s toughest team, No. 1 Georgia, but nonetheless finished second in the conference’s weaker division.
Alabama’s credentials are worthy of a New Year’s Six bowl, not the playoffs.
At this point in the season, is there a path for Alabama to make it to the CFP? pic.twitter.com/VDMbMWscL9
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If No. 4 Southern Cal (11-1) stumbles Friday in the Pac-12 Championship, No. 5 Ohio State (11-1) is appropriately first in line to replace the Trojans.
As I opined Sunday, No. 1 Georgia (12-0), No. 2 Michigan (12-0) and No. 3 TCU (12-0) should become playoff qualifiers even with a conference championship game loss. Perhaps a blowout loss of epic proportion could bump the TCU, but I believe the committee will aim to preserve in the playoff field the three Power Five teams that entered conference championship weekend undefeated.
So, case closed, right?
Even if USC loses to Utah, Ohio State moves in, and Alabama remains out, yes?
Hold on a second.
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The slightest crack of hope may remain after something CFP selection committee Chair Boo Corrigan said following Tuesday’s rankings reveal.
Corrigan was asked multiple times whether the order of the teams directly behind USC – Ohio State, Alabama and No. 7 Tennessee – was locked into place.
“Not necessarily,” Corrigan said.
Neither OSU, nor Alabama, nor Tennessee is playing this weekend, so under what scenario could Alabama leapfrog Ohio State and enter the playoff?
Well, how’s this:
1. Utah beats USC for the second time, bumping the Trojans from the playoff.
2. Purdue thumps Michigan. Let’s call the final score 42-17.
3. The possible playoff field: No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 TCU, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Alabama.
Why would Purdue trouncing Michigan matter?
Part of Ohio State’s stronger résumé compared to Alabama’s hinges on the Buckeyes having just one loss – to the undefeated Wolverines. OSU also boasts a marquee win against No. 8 Penn State. The Buckeyes absolutely should be ranked ahead of Alabama, as it stands.
But in the unlikely event Purdue skunks Michigan, that worsens Ohio State’s home loss to the Wolverines, because Michigan’s standing would be weakened. And a Purdue victory would bring the Big Ten East's credentials into question.
Would that be enough to elevate Alabama past Ohio State?
Not in my eyes. The Crimson Tide remains strapped with two losses and lacks a signature victory.
But I’m not on the selection committee, and Corrigan’s words left the committee room to wiggle.
Three and out
1. If Georgia beats LSU in the SEC Championship, I’d vote for Kirby Smart as SEC coach of the year. Fifteen Bulldogs were drafted off last year’s national championship team, yet the Georgia machine continues threshing. That’s worthy of praise. Coaches of teams highly ranked in the preseason should not be disqualified from the award.
2. The CFP's top five includes No. 2 Michigan, No. 4 USC and No. 5 Ohio State. That’s two Big Ten teams, plus another one bound for the league in 2024. B1G stuff. Will we hear chants “Bee-One-Gee! Bee-One-Gee!” during the playoff?
3. Projecting ahead, here’s the top four of my SEC coach rankings list for 2023: 1. Kirby Smart, 2. Nick Saban, 3. Brian Kelly, No. 4 Hugh Freeze. With one hire, Auburn regained chutzpah.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alabama's College Football Playoff chance rests on Purdue, Michigan