Nick Saban's team has been the one constant since the inception of the playoff
When I got this assignment to write about Alabama's College Football Playoff chances, I admit I cheated a little. I always like to see what was written about a team the previous year and last year’s article about whether the Crimson Tide would make the four-team playoff field, well... I could almost write the exact same things this year. Most of the points made from last year’s column still applied to this year’s edition: Bama’s offense has a chance to be prolific, the non-conference slate is easy, the assistant coach shuffle could be a negative, etc. etc.
But I’m pretty sure that it’d be a bad thing to just plagiarize last year’s column. So I will come up with (mostly) new material. To tell you the truth, the reason you could nearly write the same things about the Tide once again is actually a compliment to the hyper-successful program. Nobody has won more consistently in college football than the Red Elephants in the last 10 years. The level which head coach Nick Saban has them playing at year after year is ridiculous. It has even caused many an opposing SEC coach his job, since every program seems to be looking to hire the next Nick Saban.
Nonetheless here you go, starting with the more likely scenario of the Crimson Tide making the playoff field of four.
Why Alabama Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2019
1. Three letters: T-U-A
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is not only the most mispronounced name in college football (it's not TUNGO-vailoa, media types), he also is the leading returning Heisman vote-getter, who will be entering his junior year. Last year, Tua led the Tide offense to more than 40 points (45.6 to be exact) and 500 yards (522) per game for the first time this decade. His receiving corps of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle returns intact and will be the best group of wideouts in the country. In other words, the opposing defensive secondary is Tua's playground and his 43:6 TD-to-INT ratio will probably improve this year.
2. The future NFLers will be strong
In the last two NFL drafts, the Crimson Tide defense has produced six first-round picks. Yes, six. That's a decade's worth for most top programs. This year, they'll have potential first-rounders in defensive ends Raekwon Davis and LaBryan Ray, defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis, linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Dylan Moses, cornerback Trevon Diggs and safety Xavier McKinney. So to say that this defense will be up to typical Crimson Tide standards is not an understatement.
3. C'mon, it's Alabama
This is DNA-type of stuff by now. Every player that signs on to play for head coach Nick knows that the expectations are to play for a national championship. I mean, every year too. And think of it this way, the Tide have not lost more than one game since 2014. They haven't lost more than two games since 2010. With six starters back on offense and seven on defense with a handful of difference-makers in key positions, the chances are pretty good that they'll wind up where they have been every season since it was introduced – in the College Football Playoff.
Three Reasons Why Alabama Won't Make the College Football Playoff
1. That defense became un-Tide-like down the stretch
Despite all the talent that is mentioned above, let's hope the bad momentum doesn't carry over. As the 2018 season went on the Tide defense slowly started to show more cracks. Check out the progressively worsening stats in the Tide's last five games: 17 points and 275 yards allowed to The Citadel, 21 and 283 to Auburn, 28 and 454 to Georgia, 34 and 471 to Oklahoma, and 44 and 482 to Clemson. That's a spiral they've gotta shake right away in the early part of the 2019 season.
2. Coaching staff inconsistency
You guys all heard it during SEC Media Days last week. Saban said one of the main reasons Bama tanked it so bad vs. Clemson was due to a handful of assistant coaches being "distracted" by their hopes to land other gigs. In all, five assistant coaches left through what has become Saban's annual revolving staff door. Sometimes, as witnessed in the title game back in January, it can have an ill effect on a team. We'll see if new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Pete Golding can keep the sailing smooth on this staff.
3. Clemson gave everyone the blueprint on how to beat the Tide
Note to all Bama opponents: Put the game film from the championship game on the projector and get ready to run it backward and forward ad nauseam. Wanna know how to stem the Tide? Do what Clemson did in that game. Sure, the Tigers had a talent like Trevor Lawrence running the controls but hopefully, your team's QB can make at least half of the plays that the talented true freshman did and that might be close to enough. Well, that AND have a defense something similar to Clemson's. Okay, that's being a little facetious, but that game has to give SEC West contenders like Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn some hope.
All good things must come to an end, right? Well, hold your horses here because there is absolutely no indication that Alabama's streak of making the College Football Playoff is going to end this season. The bar has been set so high that making that venerable field of four is merely an expectation now. This fan base means it, and Saban always delivers.
Despite the big loss to Clemson last January, this is a program that loses rarely, recovers quickly and has a business-like attitude. This will be another banner season where the Crimson Tide will stalk the summit again. No doubt.
Athlon's Projected Final Ranking: 1
Athlon's Projected Final Record: 13-0 (8-0 SEC)
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 11
5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 11
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.