Alabama is back on top of the SEC, but the Crimson Tide will need some help from the College Football Playoff selection committee to climb the mountaintop and win another national championship.
The Tide rolled to a 27-24 win over Georgia in Saturday’s SEC championship game, making the committee’s job that much more difficult in the final season of the four-team format.
As was the case virtually the entire season for Alabama, Saturday’s win didn’t come easily. Georgia put pressure on the Tide with a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, cutting its deficit to three and putting all of the pressure on Jalen Milroe to keep Alabama’s offense on the field.
Milroe, who kept his team’s hopes alive with an unbelievable touchdown pass against Auburn last weekend, delivered again. He didn’t find the end zone this time, but he didn’t need to. Milroe ran for two first downs and ultimately ran out the clock on the Bulldogs, snapping a 29-game win streak for the reigning champions.
In a conventional year, a 12-1 SEC champion would be a playoff lock. Alabama believes that should still be true this season, but the Crimson Tide’s September loss to Texas heavily complicates their outlook.
Alabama coach Nick Saban initially refused to contribute to the playoff debate, deferring to the committee. “That’s not for me to say. We’ll find out tomorrow,” Saban said postgame. “We did out part. We did what we had to do to give ourselves a chance.”
In his postgame press conference, however, Saban came prepared and stated his case.
“We won the SEC. We beat the No. 1 team in the country. … So, if we needed to do something to pass the eye test, I guess that probably contributed to it significantly. And if you really want the four best teams to compete, the four most deserving teams,” Saban argued, Alabama should be in the field.
Alabama suffered a home loss to Texas in September and followed it up with an ugly 17-3 win over South Florida, but Saban implored the committee to consider how much his team has improved throughout the season. “I don’t think we should be considered as that team right now,” he said.
“I think this team is one of the four best teams,” Saban continued, unsurprisingly leaving no doubt about his position.
“We won the SEC. We beat the #1 team in the country…if we needed to do something to pass the eye test, I guess that probably contributed to it significantly.” – Nick Saban making Alabama’s case to make the playoff after beating Georgia in the #SECChampionship. pic.twitter.com/ojDLwAA3ob
— The Next Round (@NextRoundLive) December 3, 2023
While some of Alabama’s players took the high road and downplayed the playoff debate, others made it clear they are confident the Tide will be part of the field of four.
“Absolutely. We beat the number one team in the conference, so of course, I mean, there’s no question about it,” RB Roydell Williams told reporters after the win.
LB Trezmen Marshall, a Georgia transfer, made the case for both the Tide and the Bulldogs to reach the playoff. “It’s the SEC. You got to let them in with the best. … I know we need to be in there. That’s all I know.”
At the same time, Marshall channeled his inner Saban, saying, “I don’t know nobody on the committee, but we just showed y’all on national television, so that’s up to y’all. That’s in y’all’s hands.”
Saban repeated the same comment he made at the end of Alabama’s regular season last year, when he told CBS Sports it wasn’t for him to say whether the Tide deserve a playoff berth. They didn’t get one. This time, however, Saban has an SEC championship trophy in hand. That could make all the difference when the committee makes its decision in the next 16 hours.