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Jumbo Package: An Alabama Moratorium?

After the release of the CFB playoff rankings, is the Alabama Crimson Tide’s reign officially over?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Alabama at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the second playoff rankings, No. 4 went to TCU, the last of the four Bowl Subdivision unbeatens. The Horned Frogs inched ahead of Tennessee, which lost a crucial SEC East matchup against Georgia but remains right on the cusp of the top four.

The second playoff rankings were also notable for two notable absences near the top: No. 9 Alabama and No. 10 Clemson were both ranked outside the top six for the first time in the history of the postseason format.

Optimists will point that Alabama is only a few plays away from being undefeated. Pessimists will highlight how the Crimson Tide are only a few plays away from holding four losses, not just two — games against No. 18 Texas and Texas A&M could’ve easily gone the other way. Realists will keep it simple: Alabama has not looked the part of a national champion since the season opener and does not have the resume to come in ahead of multiple one-loss Power Five teams. The Crimson Tide have earned the benefit of the doubt nearly without exception during the program’s run under Nick Saban; this time, they haven’t resembled a team worthy of the ranking. That they’re still in the mix makes the Crimson Tide one of the biggest winners of the evening.

The Tide drops to #9 in the most recent rankings after an overtime loss to LSU. There is some scuttlebutt out there that there is technically a possibility that the Tide could still make the playoffs.

For that, here’s what would have to happen:

  • Alabama has to beat Ole Miss and Auburn convincingly
  • LSU has to lose to Texas A&M (currently on a 4-game losing streak)and Arkansas
  • The Tide would have to defeat an undefeated Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship: Preferably in blowout fashion.
  • This would still leave Georgia and Tennessee with better records than the Tide, and the Vols with the head to head win. I think Tennessee would have to drop a game... Their opponents? Missouri, Vandy, South Carolina. Yeah...
  • Michigan and Ohio State are both still undefeated. One will beat the other for the right to demolish... Illinois...? In the Big Ten championship. The winner would then be the #1 overall seed. The loser of those two probably also needs to drop a 2nd game in the mean time.
  • TCU is running rampant through the Big 12. They probably need to drop a game AND lose the championship game to drop below Alabama.
  • Oregon and USC are likely to meet in the Pac 12 championship as 1-loss teams. Barring chaos before then, one of those two is ahead of Alabama.

Assuming ALL of those things happen, we would be looking at Ohio State/Michigan as the #1, UGA #2, Oregon/USC #3, and Alabama #4.

Now what are the odds that scenario plays out?

Of course, while the rest of the nation rejoices, now might be a good time to remind them that their beloved “more teams = better” for the playoffs would be just perfect for Alabama fans this year:

Alabama lives in a college football reality where two losses are almost certain to doom a season, at least when it comes to winning a national championship.

That will soon change.

The College Football Playoff board of manager’s decision in September to expand the playoff to 12 teams as soon as 2024 will change the tenor of a season like Alabama is currently having.

Two losses by the first week of November will be far from a death knell, especially when they came by a total of four points on the road to top-10 foes.

The entire College Football landscape tries to change the rules every time Alabama gets into the championship game against another SEC team. They just can’t stand it, and think that giving 2-loss Oregon or someone a shot gives them a chance of eliminating Alabama. But what they’re really doing is just giving the Tide yet another mulligan.

Now, there’s currently a LOT of articles out there trying to be first to predict the fall of Nick Saban and Alabama. Everyone with a semblance of a voice on the internet is trying to talk about it like they’re the only person that could possibly be predicting it to be right.

One of these days, of course, they’ll be right. But remember that nearly every word written about predicting Alabama’s demise likely predicted the same thing after 2013, the loss to Ole Miss in 2015, the loss to Clemson after 2018, and the loss to Auburn in 2019. A broken clock will eventually be right, but it’s still a broken clock - And I won’t give them any limelight on this article.

With all of that, I will link to this piece from ESPN’s Alex Scarborough.

Saban said it himself: Last year was the rebuilding season, not this one. Complacency — that old saw — couldn’t be to blame after the Tide came up short in the national championship game against Georgia in January. Veterans Young, Anderson and safety Jordan Battle were convinced during the summer this team was different. They said players were focused and paying attention to the little things in a way they hadn’t before.

So what exactly was missing if not buy-in or talent?

Development, that’s what.

The drop-off at receiver of late has been striking. After producing a flurry of first-round NFL draft picks (including current stars Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle), Alabama struck gold in the portal with Jameson Williams last season. But the moment Williams was sidelined — first against Auburn, then in the national title game — the passing game cratered.

Maybe it was too much to ask for Jermaine Burton to be another savior like Williams. But remove Burton from the equation (and fellow transfer Tyler Harrell), and it’s a wonder that among Isaiah Bond, Ja’Corey Brooks, JoJo Earle, Traeshon Holden and Kobe Prentice, no one has been capable of becoming a playmaker. What’s more, they’ve been unreliable as a team, with 21 dropped passes — fifth most among Power 5 schools.

Jahmyr Gibbs, a running back, quickly became Young’s most reliable receiver. But for as good and versatile as Gibbs has been, along with his backup Jase McClellan, neither has proved to be the kind of between-the-tackles runner Alabama desperately needs. Roydell Williams, who does run with power, has only 38 carries this season. As a team, 22.9% of Alabama’s rushes have gone for zero or negative yards.

Scarborough clearly did his research in this piece. He accurately pointed out many of the true flaws of the Alabama team. But rather than boisterously proclaim the downfall, he accurately points out that it is this season that fell apart, and lays out some actual groundwork of what Alabama/Saban needs to (and can) change to get back on top. His closing statement, though, is both a somber and hopeful one:

Not only does this current incarnation of Alabama football allow itself to be affected by 100,000 screaming fans, rather than the other way around, it has made a habit of losing and giving those same people a reason to rush the field and celebrate.

The danger for Alabama is that losing will become such a normal occurrence, fans won’t bother to leave their seats to go anywhere but home. That’s when you’ll know the dynasty is over.

We’re a long way from that, but this season should serve as a warning that the foundation is eroding and work must be done.

Seriously, give this piece a read. I think it’s the best I’ve seen at encapsulating all that is wrong with Alabama’s team right now.

The only issue I have is this: Scarborough paints it as a shame that Bryce Young’s talent was wasted on a bad offense with no balance and bad blocking, and even he couldn’t save things. And it’s a sentiment I’ve seen growing on Twitter and other Alabama fan message boards.

This is a QB vs Coach argument I’ve seen play out on a pro team I follow closely, and it quickly divides the fans and works it’s way into the locker room. Bryce Young owns a very significant chunk of these losses with poor play, just as the coaching staff, the receivers, the running backs, the offensive line, and the defense own their own issues that snowballed into a team failure.

For Alabama fans, 2023 is going to be very uncertain territory. The Tide is going to lose their star QB, most of the offensive line, their starting RB, probably a receiver or two, and nearly all of the starting defense (including a likely top-5 NFL draft pick) to graduation or the NFL. They’re also likely to lose offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, as he’s stated that he “promised two years” to Saban in the past.

That’s a lot of turnover.

On one hand, that could spell utter doom. On the other, it’s this same core of coaches and players that couldn’t quite get things done in 2021 and 2022, and moving on to a totally fresh team could change the mentality behind the scenes.

Which one happens remains to be seen.

In the NFL, Kenyan Drake has had a bit of a career resurgence in Baltimore after busting in Arizona’s gross Kliff Kingsbury knock-off air raid offense:

Drake’s fifth NFL game with at least two rushing touchdowns was his first since Nov. 29, 2020, when he ran for two in the Arizona Cardinals’ 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots.

Drake also had the ninth 100-yard rushing game of his career and second of the season – until his final carry of the game. Drake had 23 carries for 100 yards until a sweep on the Ravens’ final offensive snap of the game lost 7 yards.

Baltimore ran for 188 yards, with quarterback Lamar Jackson adding 82 on 11 carries to Drake’s 93, while the Saints had 48 rushing yards.

The Ravens ran for 132 yards in the second half, when, Drake told Westwood One Sports after the game, the Ravens were “really just playing big-boy ball.”

Drake also caught two passes for 16 yards.

Not bad for a high school receiver who was Derrick Henry’s backup in college!

In case you missed it, this attempted pass from Amari Cooper was... Bad. And his response later is quite hilarious:

“I was very excited,” Cooper said. “I saw it on film work a couple of times. It was bad. Much respect to Jacoby (Brissett) and all the quarterbacks out there because they got a tough position. …

“I’m just going to stick to getting open. That’s it.”

Cooper took a pitch from running back Nick Chubb as though Cleveland had called a reverse. Cooper has 14 rushing attempts in his NFL career. But this time, the former Alabama All-American pulled up and threw the football – right to Bengals safety Vonn Bell.

“It was an abomination, really,” Cooper said. “It kept running through my mind: OK, if he’s not open, throw it away. I didn’t really realize how hard it was to throw the ball away because that’s what I tried to do. I did not try to throw it to him. …

“Don’t have me throwing too many more passes out there.”


That’s all for today. Roll Tide, all!