3 reasons Alabama failed to make College Football Playoff for first time

Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

This will be the first College Football Playoff to not feature the Alabama Crimson Tide and here’s why, even in 2019, Nick Saban’s team got snubbed.

The College Football Playoff will take place for the first time without Alabama who missed the field after a season of brutal injuries and failing to win the games they needed to win to make the field.

Given the way the end of the regular season played out for Nick Saban’s club, that should not be a surprise. The Tide had a 10-2 record and failed to earn a berth in the SEC Championship Game after losing to LSU and later Auburn.

And yet, it’s still a shock to the system to not have Alabama in the College Football Playoff simply because they’ve always been there. Since the institution of the CFP was created, the Crimson Tide have been in the four-team field every year except for this season. That speaks to the dynasty Saban has rebuilt in Tuscaloosa.

In truth, there were no real “snubs” in the truest sense when it comes to this year’s College Football Playoff. Teams like Utah, Baylor and even Wisconsin had their opportunity to play themselves in with wins in conference title games but all came up short. So instead of looking at pure snubs, let’s look at the first-time exclusion from the field, Alabama.

More specifically, let’s rewind through the Crimson Tide’s season and pinpoint why Alabama was unable to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff.

3. So many injuries, but none as devastating as Tua Tagovailoa’s

When on the field this season, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was as good as advertised. He was one of the leaders in the Heisman Trophy race, had the Alabama offense looking like one of the best in program history and simply looked as if he was going to mow over any competition placed before him once again.

Then came the ankle injury against Tennessee. That kept Tagovailoa out against Arkansas, which was of no concern to Alabama as they rolled. However, it did force Tua to take the field at less than 100 percent against LSU. He performed beautifully in trying to come back after trailing big but you have to wonder how that game could’ve played out with the quarterback at full health.

Of course, Tagovailoa’s season came to a devastating halt the following week against Mississippi State when he suffered a dislocated hip. That again put Mac Jones into the fold for the season finale against Auburn. And while the defense did the Crimson Tide no favors in the slightest, Tua could have potentially pushed the offense to another level to pick up the Iron Bowl win.

Considering Tagovailoa was the engine of this Bama offense, it’s hard not to look at their potential College Football Playoff hopes and the fact Tua was either not at full health or not on the field for their two biggest games of the season as the primary reason they didn’t make the cut.

2. Faltering amid soft schedule

Yes, Alabama plays in the SEC. But when you look at the teams the Crimson Tide had to play this season, it pales in comparison to the slates fellow conference foes like LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M had to go up against this season. In fact, Saban’s team had to play just four games in the regular season against Power 5 teams that finished with a 7-5 record or better.

While it doesn’t do their strength of schedule any favors, what’s worse in terms of making a College Football Playoff case is the Tide won just two of those games (Tennessee and Texas A&M) while losing to Auburn and LSU. And while both of those losses were close, you can’t expect to make it into the top four if you lose the two biggest games on your schedule.

1. Not your grandpa’s Bama defense

When you think about Alabama under Saban, the defense is likely one of the first things that come to mind. Annually, the NFL Draft is littered with first-round-caliber talent coming out of Tuscaloosa and that will happen again in the 2020 Draft. But, the 2019 Crimson Tide defense is not the high-level group — and more importantly not the consistent unit — we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

Yes, the defense gave up just 18.8 points per game. However, when you pair that with their lackluster schedule, it becomes less impressive. Then factoring in giving up 41 points to LSU, 48 points to Auburn, and even 28 points to Texas A&M or 31 points to Ole Miss, it’s clear this was not the elite Alabama defense that has carried them in the past.

While the offense is much more dangerous than it has been out of Tuscaloosa, you’re not going to be a College Football Playoff team with a backup quarterback and a defense that’s lacking. You can blame the Tua injury all you want but Alabama’s defense could’ve carried them into the CFP still had they been up to par.

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