TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For the first time since its inception, Alabama football was nervous on Selection Sunday for the College Football Playoff.
In each of the previous three years, Alabama had already locked up the No. 1 spot as either an undefeated (2016) or one-loss SEC champion (2014, 2015). Alabama lost that luxury following its loss at Auburn on Nov. 25, and had to sweat it out during the announcement.
Alabama football earned the No. 4 seed in what felt like the most tense moment the committee has had in the playoff’s now four-year history. The Crimson Tide will face No. 1 Clemson on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl semifinal. No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia will meet in the Rose Bowl semifinal.
Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t want that moment or feeling of uncertainty to be lost on the players.
“Well, I think there’s a lesson to be learned here, and I shared this with the team today in our team meeting — that because we didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to finish the season and didn’t play the way we’d like to play or to the standard that we’d like to play to, we put our fate in someone else’s hands,” Saban said during the Sugar Bowl coaches teleconference.
“And you like to control the things that you can control. You can always control your behavior, you can always control your performance. But we didn’t do that, and we put our fate in somebody else’s hands.”
Saban spent time politicking for the Crimson Tide late Saturday night during an appearance on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, Rece Davis and Chris Fowler. He implored the committee to look at the entire season, and not just the Crimson Tide’s lone loss.
Saban’s biggest talking point — and likely the fact that pushed in Alabama — was Ohio State’s 31-point loss to Iowa on top of a blowout home loss to Oklahoma. The committee couldn’t get past the Buckeyes getting drubbed and giving up 55 points to the Hawkeyes.
In the end, Saban and Alabama got their wish: a chance to compete for another national championship, as well as another shot at Clemson.
“There were a lot of people who I tried to influence that we wanted to look at the whole body of work for the whole season and get the four best teams in the playoffs, and I felt we were one of those teams and we were certainly pleased and happy that things worked out the way they did,” Saban said.
“But there was a little white-knuckle time for all of us, in terms of we were going to be judged by somebody else now. It’s not exactly like we’d like for it to be and we feel very fortunate that we have the opportunity to be in the game.”