With plenty of College Football Playoff implications on the line Saturday, which one of these SEC foes will emerge victorious?
The Iron Bowl is one of the oldest rivalries in all of college football, dating all the way back to 1893. The Crimson Tide lead the all-time series 45-35-1 and have had recent success, winning seven of the last nine meetings. The SEC foes have had some meaningful battles, as the last eight winners of this rivalry have gone on to play in either the BCS National Championship Game or the College Football Playoff.
This year is no different, as Alabama is giving up a nation-low 10.2 points per game and is the top-ranked team in the nation. On the other side, Auburn has climbed to sixth in the College Football Playoff Rankings after sitting at 5-2 a month ago. The winner of Saturday’s matchup will claim the SEC West division title and clash with Georgia in the SEC championship game, while the loser’s playoff hopes will take a major hit. Let’s take a look the College Football Playoff implications that the Iron Bowl has for both sides.
If Alabama beats Auburn
If the Crimson Tide beat Auburn for the fourth consecutive year, Alabama would be just 60 minutes away from clinching the top seed in the College Football Playoff. The Tide’s resume would include wins over currently ranked LSU, Mississippi State and most importantly, Auburn. Currently, the Tide lack a signature win, as their best win came on the road against 16th ranked Mississippi State by only seven points. A victory on the road over the 6th ranked Tigers would do just the trick.
In addition to a signature win that the Crimson Tide desperately need, an Iron Bowl victory would also clinch a fourth straight SEC West crown for Alabama and a ticket to the SEC title game. If the Tide take care of business there, Alabama would enter the College Football Playoff as the top-ranked team in the nation. If Alabama falls to Georgia in the SEC title game, however, things get chaotic. The nightmare scenario for the Crimson Tide is the following: Wisconsin and Miami win the rest of their games, finishing as undefeated conference champions and claiming two playoff spots. Oklahoma also wins out, claiming the Big 12 crown and finishing with one loss. Finally, both Georgia and Alabama have one loss, but Georgia just beat the Crimson Tide for the SEC title. Who gets left out in this scenario? That would be extremely difficult for the selection committee to decide, but Alabama may be left out of the playoff in this scenario.
Also, what if Clemson tops Miami in the ACC title game? In this scenario, there could be five or six one-loss teams battling for the final three or four playoff spots, depending on how Wisconsin fairs in their last two contests. Once again, another tough decision for the selection committee. Both of these scenarios would have the Tide on edge, proving that a win this week does not guarantee Alabama a playoff berth just yet.
Could things get any more chaotic for the Tide? The answer is yes, as an Auburn victory this Saturday would flip Alabama’s world upside down.
If Alabama loses to Auburn
If Alabama loses to Auburn on Saturday, their playoff fate lies in the hands of the other contenders. Auburn would take the SEC West crown, leaving Alabama with an 11-1 record and without a conference title. Assuming that the winner of the SEC title game between Georgia/Auburn would make the playoff, that leaves three spots still open. After we include the winner of the ACC title game between Clemson/Miami, assuming they do not lose this week (hurting their résumé), we’re down to just two spots.
SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 20, 2017
Alabama would hope for any combination of losses from Oklahoma or Wisconsin at any point. Also, the Tide would benefit from Clemson, Miami, or Georgia slipping up before their conference title game. If the Badgers, Sooners and the ACC champion (Clemson or Miami) run the table, Alabama would find themselves sitting squarely on the bubble, and could be watching this year’s College Football Playoff from their couches at home.
If Auburn beats Alabama
It’s pretty simple for Gus Malzahn’s squad. With a win, Auburn’s College Football Playoff dreams stay alive for another week. Although a win over top-ranked Crimson Tide won’t lock Auburn into the playoffs, it will sure boost their résumé. Auburn would have two wins that no team could match, with victories over top-ranked teams in Georgia and Alabama.
ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 20, 2017
In addition to adding a sparkling win to their résumé, Auburn would clinch the SEC West and a ticket to the SEC championship against Georgia. If Auburn were to lose to Georgia, their playoff hopes would be erased. However, if the Tigers could knock off the Bulldogs, the selection committee would be faced with some tough decisions, depending on what the rest of the nation does. Just like the Crimson Tide, Auburn will be rooting for the other playoff contenders to slip up to increase their chances at a playoff berth.
Does this sound familiar? If Auburn wins out, the selection committee could be faced with the decision to choose either a two-loss conference champion, or a one-loss team that was beaten by that same two-loss conference champion. The exact scenario happened in 2016, as Big Ten champion Penn State (11-2) and Ohio State (11-1) found themselves on the playoff bubble. Penn State had beaten Ohio State in the regular season, but the committee ranked the Buckeyes ahead of the Nittany Lions, leaving Penn State out of the playoff despite beating Ohio State head-to-head. Would the committee repeat this kind of decision? This is something to keep in mind if this scenario were to play out.
|2016 Penn State||2016 Ohio State|
|Record Entering Bowl Season||11-2||11-1|
|Big Ten Champion?||Yes||No|
|College Football Playoff Ranking||5th||3rd|
If Auburn loses to Alabama
A loss for Auburn in the Iron Bowl would end their College Football Playoff hopes, as they need to win out to even have a chance at the playoff. However, the Tigers could still make a New Year’s Six Bowl, a nice consolation prize.
Alabama is the top ranked team in the nation for a reason, as their top-ranked defense will smother Auburn and their dreams of reaching the College Football Playoff. Jalen Hurts and the offense will find a way to generate enough points to get the job done and the Crimson Tide will march on to their fourth consecutive appearance in the SEC championship game.
*All stats courtesy of espn.com, sports-reference.com and stats.ncaa.org
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