College Football Playoff committee has no defense in ranking Alabama No. 5

In defense of the Alabama Crimson Tide, they have played nine football games this season and have not defeated a single opponent ranked in the AP Top 25.

Wait, that’s not much of a defense, is it?

Well, weak defense is kind of a theme for Alabama this fall. The Tide are allowing 335.4 yards per game, which ranks just 30th among teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They allowed 46 points to LSU in defeat, spotting the opposition a 33-13 halftime lead the Tigers were able to string out to the end of 60 minutes.

Alabama had the advantage of playing its biggest game of the season at home — and got manhandled. That alone should put the Tide toward the back of a reasonably long line to enter the College Football Playoff in December. We know, of course, that is not how this will work. Because Alabama is more equal than others in the eyes of the playoff committee, no matter who sits in those chairs.

So the committee placed the Crimson Tide fifth in its latest reality show rankings, which is perfect placement if you think about it. The committee saves itself the full outrage from fans of other programs nonplussed at seeing Alabama in Playoff position the week after losing its only tough game of the year, while fully aware that either LSU or Georgia must lose again. Alabama can then be promoted into the quartet that will play for the “championship.”

What is the difference between Minnesota and Alabama at this point? One played a meager schedule and built an undefeated record, then stood tall and defeated the first great opponent to enter its building. The other played a meager schedule and built an undefeated record, then crumbled and lost to the first great opponent to enter its building.

What one “thinks” about what would occur should those two meet on a neutral field is irrelevant. Seriously, not even Evansville thought Evansville was going to beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Tuesday evening. But it happened. The SEC probably is the strongest conference in college football this season, although the Big Ten has an argument. Regardless, what difference does that make to Alabama if the Tide don’t have to beat any of the league’s strongest teams?

Georgia is 8-1, with victories over Notre Dame and Florida, and ranked No. 5 by the Associated Press. Alabama will not be forced to deal with the Bulldogs unless LSU bungles two of its final three games in the regular season. Florida is 8-2 and ranked No. 11. The Gators might as well be in the Mountain West Conference, though. Alabama hasn’t played them in a regular-season game since 2014.

The Tide got their shot at No. 1 LSU. We saw how that went.

All that is left for Alabama that requires any degree of seriousness is the annual Iron Bowl game against Auburn — which, by the time the Tide come to town, quite likely will own three regular-season defeats. If the Tide can win that game, it will represent the closest thing they can claim to a quality victory.

We have seen this before, of course. In 2017, Alabama did not defeat a single team in the regular season that finished in the top 10. The Tide played at 9-2 Auburn in the Iron Bowl and were beaten handily, 26-14. The Tigers had lost to Clemson and LSU, then lost to Georgia in the SEC championship game. But the weight of that loss didn’t prevent Alabama from being chosen ahead of Big Ten champion Ohio State, which had beaten two top-10 teams but was punished for falling on the road at Iowa.

The easy solution for this annual sham is to stage an eight-team playoff that includes automatic bids for the Power-5 conference champions, two at-large entrants and one spot reserved for the best of the “Group of Five” conferences.

That’s at least a few years away.

The practical solution for now is for the members of the Playoff committee to begin rewarding the most accomplished teams with the Playoff bids they’ve earned — rather than the teams that have the best brand names.

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