For just the second time since the inception of the College Football Playoff in the 2014-15 season, the Alabama Crimson Tide are in serious jeopardy of missing their first CFP appearance in program history.
After losing control of the SEC West in their first loss of the season to LSU in Week 11 and losing their star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to a season-ending hip injury in Week 12, Alabama has fallen to nothing short of a dark horse candidate to make the 2020 CFP with +3000 odds to win it all, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Assuming No. 1 LSU wins out and clinches the SEC West, if the Tide want remain the only college football team to appear in every CFP to date, here are the four things that must happen for Alabama to have a shot at sneaking back into the playoff this year.
1. Alabama to Win Out, With Style
Obviously, any one-loss CFP hopeful not competing in its own conference title game needs to finish 11-1, and also needs to do so in style. Alabama does have history on its side, as the Tide have actually snuck into two national championship victories without winning even their own conference division between a 2012 BCS title and 2018 CFP crown. Unfortunately for Alabama though, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee evaluates its four best teams in real time from a human perspective, which also includes taking current roster health and composition into account over prior résumé history during the final selection. The Tide's backup QB Mac Jones showed out in his lone start of the 2019 season in Tua's absence back in Week 9, going 18-of-22 for 235 yards and three touchdowns through the air in Bama's 48-7 win over Arkansas. However, it's hard to put a lot of capital into a home performance against arguably the SEC's worst team in 2-8 Arkansas. Furthermore, considering both LSU and Georgia struggled to put Auburn away this season, a big Week 14 win over the Tigers in a hostile environment like the Iron Bowl could go a long way for both Jones and Alabama in the eyes of the CFP Selection Committee.
2. Oregon to Win the Pac-12 Championship Game
If Jones can indeed mirror the same sort of dominance as Tua commanded with one of the most talented wide-receiving corps in the country over the next two weeks, capped by a convincing Iron Bowl road victory over No. 12 Auburn to end the year, Alabama could certainly be back in business. However, assuming both No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Utah close out their regular seasons at 11-1 to meet in the 2019 Pac-12 championship game, the Tide should be rooting for a close result in the Ducks' favor. While this outcome would produce a 12-1 Power 5 conference champion in Oregon, if the Tide can beat Auburn convincingly, it would also mean that the best team in the Pac-12 couldn't even get the best of the SEC's fifth-best team in Auburn after the Tigers knocked off the Ducks, 27-21, on a neutral field back in Week 1.
3. LSU to Blow Georgia Out of the Water in the SEC Championship Game
With LSU's five-point win over then-No. 3 Alabama in Week 11, the Tigers finally ascended to the nation's consensus No. 1 team in the following week. Since that matchup ended as a one-score game (46-41), the Crimson Tide could get a ton of help if LSU can remain undefeated and annihilate an 11-1 Georgia team in the 2019 SEC championship game. First of all, we've never seen a two-loss team make the final CFP cut. Beyond that fact, as mentioned in first item on this list, we have seen two 11-1 Alabama teams make the title game without appearing in the SEC championship game in the same season. With a two-loss Georgia then out of the picture, Alabama and its one-score loss to the likely No. 1 CFP seed LSU could open an intriguing argument for the Tide come Dec. 15 and the final cut.
4. Clemson to Win Out With a Convincing Victory Over South Carolina in Week 14
With No. 2 Ohio State likely to win out for a Big Ten title and eventual CFP berth, this final result from Clemson would serve as an added insurance policy for Alabama. Despite the Tigers' much weaker strength of schedule this season, it's widely believed that an undefeated defending champion in Clemson would still make the final cut. On the other side of this, adding a single-loss ACC champion Clemson into the mix would only make things harder for an 11-1 Alabama to make the final cut. Given Clemson and South Carolina face off in their annual Week 14 in-state rivalry matchup, the Tigers' have a chance to further bolster Alabama's CFP stock over Georgia with a huge win against South Carolina. As you may remember, the Gamecocks went on the road to Athens as double-digit underdogs and knocked off the Bulldogs in one of the biggest upsets of the 2019 season. Similar upsets to this one in recent years have proven to severely penalize previous CFP hopefuls in the eyes of the committee as well, including a one-loss 2018 Big Ten champion Ohio State team that missed out on a CFP berth to an 11-1 Alabama squad.
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David Hayes is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, David Hayes also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username DavidWHayes. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.