By winning three consecutive SEC championships during the first three years of the College Football Playoff, Alabama has avoided any drama in regard to being among the four teams picked to play for the national championship.
It was seeded No. 1 for the playoff in 2014 and 2016 and No. 2 in 2015.So it was an unfamiliar position that coach Nick Saban faced Saturday -- losing to Auburn and being asked about his team's chances of being selected. Several critical games will be played between now and the final announcement Dec. 3. As many as eight teams appear to be alive for the four spots.
"I think this team deserves the opportunity to get in the playoff by what they've accomplished," Saban said. "Certainly not maybe this game, but I think (Auburn) is a very good football team and probably one of the best teams in the country. I don't really know what all the scenarios might be where we might have an opportunity to do it."
Although most prognosticators believe Alabama will be out of the top four when the new rankings are announced Tuesday, it is impossible to eliminate the Crimson Tide from the list of contenders. They are No. 5 in the AP and coaches polls this week.
The conference championship games will go a long way toward determining Alabama's chances. The SEC winner between Auburn and Georgia and ACC winner between Clemson and Miami are virtual locks. If Auburn were to lose, the Crimson Tide would have to be out of the picture.
If Auburn wins, the outcomes of the Big Ten and Big 12 championships could determine Alabama's fate. If Wisconsin beats Ohio State, the committee is highly unlikely to bypass an undefeated champion from a power five conference. And if Oklahoma beats Texas Christian, the Sooners would be in the field.
The Crimson Tide will be rooting for Ohio State and TCU. Wins by either of those teams will greatly improve Alabama's chances, although the committee has yet to place two teams from the same conference in the field.
Of course, the committee also has never taken a two-loss team, and that will happen this year if Auburn beats Georgia.
If it comes down to a discussion between Ohio State and Alabama, the conversation figures to be lively. The Buckeyes have two losses and surrendered 55 points against Iowa. Alabama's only loss could end up being to a national semifinalist. However, the Crimson Tide's overall schedule is rated among the worst of the possible semifinalists with wins over Mississippi State and Louisiana State rating as their best.
Bowl slots are filled
Thankfully, there will not be any five-win teams playing in bowl games this season now that the number of bowl-eligible programs has exceeded the available slots.
There are 79 teams with at least six wins, meaning at least one will be left out when the 78 bowl spots are filled in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Duke, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Purdue, Temple and Utah reached six wins over the weekend.
In recent years, the bowls have been forced to take sub-.500 teams because the field of postseason games has grown too large. The FBS has 130 teams, meaning that 60 percent play in a bowl game.
Three other teams have five wins with one more to play. The list includes Florida State, which needs a win over Louisiana Monroe to have a shot at its 36th consecutive bowl game.
This article is written by Stu Durando from St. Louis Post-Dispatch and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.