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Saban’s “best teams” argument: If TCU played Alabama, “Would they be underdogs?”

The Alabama coach is framing his argument for the “four best.”

NCAA Football: Auburn at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2017, eventual national champion and one-loss Alabama was selected by the playoff committee over Big Ten champ Ohio State, who had lost twice. Then-committee chair Kirby Hocutt made it clear that the committee watched the games looking for the four best teams, and that all other selection criteria were to be used as tiebreakers in case two teams were close. In the committee’s eyes, that wasn’t the case.

“It was impressive,” Hocutt said of Ohio State’s resume. “But it wasn’t enough for the selection committee to place them over Alabama. The selection committee has continued to be impressed with Alabama’s performance on the field.”

This year Alabama will be compared to two one-loss teams, neither of which has a conference title, in TCU and Ohio State. Saban is attempting to steer this committee back to the “four best teams” precedent.

Advanced metrics are pretty clear in this case. According to ESPN FPI, coming into this week Alabama and Ohio State are both in the top three in the nation while TCU is 10th. SP+ has Alabama and Ohio State in the top four, while TCU is sixth. Overall efficiency favors the two bluebloods, as does game control.

In terms of what happened on the football field other than the final score of each individual game, it’s clear that TCU is behind the other two The reality, however, is that nothing has changed in that regard based on today’s outcomes. If TCU was ranked 3rd in the playoff field despite all of that data before, why would they be left out in favor of Alabama for taking their first loss in a conference title game while Alabama and Ohio State sat idle?

Had the committee already priced in a win over Kansas State? If so, then perhaps Alabama has a shot.

To Saban’s question, Alabama would quite obviously be favored over the Horned Frogs. In theory, that alone suggests that they are the “better” team. Will the committee agree and subscribe to that principle, making Alabama the first two loss playoff participant?

Guess we will find out tomorrow.

Roll Tide.