Stop me if you've heard this one before: Alabama lost a game and is in very good postseason shape anyway.
Remember when Alabama lost to LSU in 2011, then hung around long enough to get a BCS rematch? And then Alabama's 2012 loss to Texas A&M meant the Tide were totally out of the BCS race, except they were back to No. 2 just 14 days later? And how it took the most amazing moment in college football history to put away Bama in 2013? And how the Tide lost to Ole Miss last October, then ranked No. 1 last November?*
Yeah, that stuff seems to be happening again, despite columnists telling you a couple weeks ago that Bama's run was done. Because after Alabama humiliated Georgia in Athens and the Rebels' SEC West lead was reduced to just a tiebreaker, it's pretty easy to see the exact same story playing out again.
A road trip to Texas A&M in two weeks, Leonard Fournette's LSU and the Iron Bowl await, plus whatever the SEC East might cough up (then again, hey, Florida beat Ole Miss). None of that's easy, but in a season in which every team has looked flawed and/or untested, the recently 2-1 Tide feel like the safest bet, all over again.
* I copied almost this whole paragraph from last year. Zombie Alabama.
|College Football Playoff|
|National Championship||Alabama||Ohio State||January 11||Glendale, AZ||Cotton winner vs. Orange winner|
|Cotton||No. 2 Ohio State||No. 3 Clemson||December 31||Arlington, TX||Playoff rankings top 4|
|Orange||No. 1 Alabama||No. 4 Baylor||December 31||Miami||Playoff rankings top 4|
Sure, Ohio State's still around after seeking a loss at Indiana. Ohio State is 2014 Florida State, and we're all just going to have to get used to weekly underwhelming sensations. None of this is impressing the Playoff committee, which will drop its first rankings in about a month, but the Buckeyes just have to shamble their way to undefeated. That sounds harder by the week.
Clemson arrives, and less because of the close win over Notre Dame, which wasn't a surprise, and more because of Georgia Tech's slump. The Jackets have lost three in a row, and changing that home game to a Clemson win bumped the Tigers to a 12-1 season on my board. Don't yell at me when GT wins.
|New Year's Six bowls|
|Fiesta||Houston||UCLA||January 1||Glendale, AZ||At-large|
|Rose||Michigan||Stanford||January 1||Pasadena, CA||Big Ten 1 vs. Pac-12 1|
|Sugar||Oklahoma||Texas A&M||January 1||New Orleans||Big 12 1 vs. SEC 1|
|Peach||Florida State||Notre Dame||December 31||Atlanta||At-large|
I didn't plan HARBOWL. HARBOWL happened.
First, Michigan just plain looks better than Michigan State, and their meeting is in Ann Arbor. As with Ohio State, I'm trusting MSU gets it together at some point, but it feels a little silly to look at what the Spartans and Wolverines have done to this point and assume it's all a mirage.
As for Harbaugh's former team, sure. A Pac-12 team has to go there. I don't know. You could pick one of about seven teams to put there. That's more than half the conference. Stanford only has two road games left, against the conference's two worst teams, and its loss at Northwestern seems likely to end up being one of those quality losses, which is amazing.
Texas A&M is the only other SEC team I trust at the moment. That probably sounds ridiculous, but there's nothing I can do about it. The Aggies have a relatively friendly schedule, and their Arizona State win finally looks good after ASU took out UCLA.
You have to put an ACC team in one of those spots, and if Clemson's in the Playoff, there's no very good choice. (I got that detail wrong, since this year that only applies to the conference ties of the Rose and Sugar. Still, I'm fine with FSU here.)
|Bowl (* = filling another conference's bid)||Conferences ties, not based on standings|
|Alamo||TCU||Utah||January 2||San Antonio||Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2|
|Cactus||Texas Tech||Arizona||January 2||Tempe, AZ||Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7|
|Liberty||Kansas State||Kentucky||January 2||Memphis||Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8|
|TaxSlayer||Penn State||Florida||January 2||Jacksonville, FL||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Citrus||Michigan State||Ole Miss||January 1||Orlando||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 2|
|Outback||Wisconsin||Georgia||January 1||Tampa||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Belk||Duke||Tennessee||December 30||Charlotte||ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Birmingham||Memphis||Mississippi State||December 30||Birmingham, AL||American vs. SEC 9|
|Holiday||Iowa||USC||December 30||San Diego||Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3|
|Music City||Louisville||LSU||December 30||Nashville||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Arizona||Rice||Utah State||December 29||Tucson||C-USA vs. MWC|
|Armed Forces||Indiana||Air Force||December 29||Fort Worth, TX||Big Ten vs. MWC|
|Russell Athletic||North Carolina||West Virginia||December 29||Orlando||ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3|
|Texas||Oklahoma State||Missouri||December 29||Houston||Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8|
|Military||Georgia Tech||Navy||December 28||Annapolis, MD||ACC vs. American|
|Quick Lane||Boston College||Illinois||December 28||Detroit||ACC vs. Big Ten|
|Foster Farms||Nebraska||Oregon||December 26||Santa Clara, CA||Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4|
|Heart of Dallas||Minnesota*||Marshall||December 26||Dallas||Big 12 7 vs. C-USA|
|Independence||Virginia Tech||Arkansas||December 26||Shreveport, LA||ACC vs. SEC (C-USA backup)|
|Pinstripe||Pitt||Northwestern||December 26||New York City||ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7|
|St. Petersburg||Miami*||Middle Tennessee||December 26||St. Petersburg, FL||American vs. C-USA|
|Sun||NC State||Arizona State||December 26||El Paso||ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5|
|Bahamas||Old Dominion||Ohio||December 24||Nassau, BS||C-USA vs. MAC 4/5|
|Hawaii||Temple||BYU||December 24||Honolulu||American vs. MWC/BYU|
|GoDaddy||Toledo||Georgia Southern||December 23||Mobile, AL||MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2|
|Poinsettia||San Diego State||San Jose State*||December 23||San Diego||MWC vs. Army|
|Boca Raton||East Carolina||Northern Illinois||December 22||Boca Raton, FL||American vs. MAC|
|Potato||Bowling Green||Colorado State||December 22||Boise, ID||MAC 2 vs. MWC|
|Miami Beach||Cincinnati||Western Kentucky||December 21||Miami||American vs. C-USA|
|Camelia||Western Michigan||Arkansas State||December 19||Montgomery, AL||MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3|
|Cure||Tulane||South Alabama||December 19||Orlando||American vs. Sun Belt|
|Las Vegas||Boise State||Cal||December 19||Las Vegas||MWC 1/BYU vs. Pac-12 6|
|New Mexico||Southern Miss||New Mexico||December 19||Albuquerque||C-USA vs. MWC|
|New Orleans||Appalachian State||Louisiana Tech||December 19||New Orleans||Sun Belt 1 vs. C-USA|
Would the Alamo Bowl take a bigger name over Utah, assuming similar records all around? Sure, maybe. But this one would pair two former conference rivals, like a five-year-ish Mountain West reunion. Bowls often seem to go for what feels safe by taking a famous team instead of going for the excited fanbase, but sure, let's try something fun here and see what it looks like.
SDSU vs. SJSU would be a conference rematch, sure, but local options are slim at the moment.
And where to put LSU continues to be a hard one, and it might stay that way for a while, since the Tigers' schedule is so backloaded.