You know who's absolutely in if this were a playoff year? Bama

Alabama is a long shot to make the final BCS title game after losing to Auburn.  (USATSI)
Alabama is a long shot to make the final BCS title game after losing to Auburn. (USATSI)

Alabama would be in. Done. Book it. All but guaranteed.

Bama would be playing for a national championship. In fact, let's cut out the BS: Alabama could be "rewarded" for losing to Auburn.

Next year.

One of the little-known features of the new college football playoff in 2014 is that it's more likely that contenders can lose late and still play for a national championship.

It's simple math. The sample size is doubling from two to four. Not all of those necessarily would be conference champs. In fact, if the playoff were in effect this year, Alabama would be in without so much as winning its division.

Think of an Iron Bowl that would be for seeding. Same for any of the BCS conference championship games. In some ways, their value is actually diminished by a playoff. Say you're No. 1 and lose by a point to an 11-1 team from the opposite division. You win -- remaining in the top four -- by losing.

That's the potential end of any given season as we head into the playoff era. Of course, they're not exactly screaming that fact -- the builders of the CFP. Don't call it a flaw of the new system debuting next year. It's merely a feature of the playoff when the bracket size is doubled. The weekend's results highlighted what could happen next year and, potentially, every year thereafter.

Using the 2014 playoff parameters regarding Alabama in 2013 ...

• Alabama, a solid No. 1, lost in the final week of the regular season. In the final year of the BCS, the Tide are momentarily out of the current structure, dropping to No. 4.

But this weekend's developments all but guarantee that Bama would be in a four-team playoff -- without even winning the division.

The CFP administrators long ago decided that the top four teams -- not conference champions -- would fill out the bracket. The particular team in Tuscaloosa just had a 15-game winning streak snapped and has won consecutive titles.

And, true, it would be up to those 13 selection committee members to pick Bama, but who else would they select in '14 using the roster of '13 teams? (See below)

In virtually any scenario, Alabama benefits -- again, by sitting on the couch.

• If No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Ohio State both win, they would have the top two spots. The winner of Auburn-Missouri in the SEC title game would take a third spot. The loser would be eliminated.

That would be the worst-case scenario for Bama. If either of the top two lost their conference championship games, they would likely plummet in the polls, computers and in the eyes of the humans given the quality of competition. Bama, then, would be all but a lock in a playoff.

FSU is playing Duke in the ACC. While Ohio State is playing an accomplished Michigan State (11-1), the Big Ten has been taking hits all season.

If both FSU and Ohio State lose, a possible Alabama-Auburn rematch looms. The possibility of rematches is actually enhanced in the playoff era. More teams, more chances to meet each other again.

Again, simple math. Again, it will be up to the selection committee.

Meanwhile, Bama faces the very real prospect of playing in a BCS bowl in 2011 and 2013 without so much as winning the SEC West. As it is, Bama is just about guaranteed a BCS berth. If it finishes in the top four, BCS rules state any at-large (second) team from a conference gets a BCS bowl.

Evaluating the remaining contenders using 2014 playoff parameters:

Florida State, 12-0 headed to the ACC championship against Duke. Win and the Seminoles -- four-touchdown favorites -- are in.

Lose and they drop out of the top four given the quality of competition. Would David Cutcliffe care? Heck no.

Ohio State, 12-0, winners of 24 in a row headed to the Big Ten title game. Win and the Bucks are in. In the BCS and playoff scenarios, lose and they would face the same fate as FSU.

Alabama, 11-1, is done. In almost any scenario, it would have to be valued by the selection committee as one of the top four teams in the country.

In the real-world BCS, for Alabama to get into the top two, most likely both FSU and Ohio State would have to lose.

Oklahoma State, 10-1, sixth in the BCS with a regular-season game to go against No. 17 Oklahoma. Guaranteed the Fiesta Bowl if it beats the Sooners. Likely out of BCS consideration if it loses. Playoff? There will be too many one-loss teams to leap over.

Same for ...

Baylor, 10-1 and ninth in the BCS, which lost head-to-head to Oklahoma State. The Bears finish Saturday against Texas. They win the Big 12 if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, and they take down the Longhorns.

• BCS No. 10 Michigan State, 11-1, plays Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. The Spartans go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 26 years if they win. No playoff (or BCS) consideration with a loss.

• The SEC championship game winner (Missouri or Auburn) is guaranteed the Sugar Bowl, at least. It will likely be up to the voters to move the winner past Ohio State into the top two. In a playoff, the SEC champion would be in the top four.

In the BCS: If either or both of the top two lose, then, for the eighth consecutive season the SEC will be playing for a national championship.

In a playoff scenario, it's easy to assume that even if Oklahoma State, Baylor and Michigan State all won, none of them would impress the selection committee enough to get into the top four.

That would benefit Alabama whose saving grace would be that its season is complete. Its national championship run would be extended because it doesn't have to play.

I can't read the minds of the selection committee but Bama also would be drafting off a four-year run of excellence that included back-to-back national championships and that 15-game winning streak.

Conclusion: In a four-team playoff not only would the Tide be "rewarded” losing to Auburn but they wouldn't have to risk their record in the SEC title game.

Of course, it has happened before in the BCS era (Nebraska, 2001; Alabama, 2011. Oklahoma lost the Big 12 title game in 2003 and actually stayed No. 1). But, as mentioned, doubling the championship field actually makes such an occurrence more likely.

 
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