TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It sounded like a joke, but Minkah Fitzpatrick was serious when assessing how many view Alabama football.
For the first time during the College Football Playoff era, Alabama was unsure of its standing heading into Selection Sunday.
Pundits both nationally and regionally felt the Crimson Tide didn’t deserve to be one of the top four teams following their loss to Auburn as well as the Tide’s struggles at Mississippi State. Fitzpatrick believes the naysayers can galvanize the team and help them focus even more.
“People were counting us out. They didn’t want us in there,” Fitzpatrick said. “Some people just don’t like us. It’s true. I think it definitely helps as motivation, especially if we do what we’re supposed to do and get where we’re supposed to be.”
Fitzpatrick may have a point in some respect.
Top-ranked Clemson is the defending national champion. The Tigers dethroned Alabama last season, and Dabo Swinney’s personality is viewed as the complete opposite of Nick Saban’s.
No. 2 Oklahoma has Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and a high-octane offense with coach Lincoln Riley at the helm.
No. 3 Georgia is built similar to Alabama under second-year coach Kirby Smart, but the Bulldogs haven’t been among the top programs long enough to elicit the strong reactions Alabama does.
Whether it’s won it each year or not, Alabama football has been in the national championship hunt every season since 2008 outside of the three-loss 2010 team.
Alabama cornerback Levi Wallace agreed with Fitzpatrick, and took it a step further.
“We’re seen as the villain,” Wallace said. “I’m sure a lot of people don’t like Alabama because we’re always so good each and every year. That’s something Coach Saban has instilled in us. Trying to be the best we can be. Just being the University of Alabama, whatever you guys say we are, that’s what we are but we’re definitely the bad guys in college football.”
Alabama football earned the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff. It will be the Crimson Tide’s fourth appearance in the playoff’s four-year history. Alabama will face No. 1 Clemson on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl semifinal (8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN). No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia will meet in the Rose Bowl semifinal (5 p.m. ET, ESPN) earlier that day.
“I think the committee got it right,” Wallace said. “We’re one of the best teams out there and I think we’re going to go show and prove on New Year’s Day.”
From the positive “rat poison” to taking on an “us against the world” mentality, it’s been a weird year for how Alabama has viewed the coverage and talk surrounding this team.
Alabama was No. 1 in the polls for the majority of the season, but the chatter surrounding the team since early November has left the Tide feeling disrespected.
“We always play with a chip on our shoulders because we know we’re going to get everyone’s best each and every week so whatever you guys say we are, we are,” Wallace said.