TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For just a moment, Nick Saban cracked.
The concept presented to him was so foreign that Alabama's coach almost spit out the answer. But, c'mon, somebody had to say it out loud.
Following an anticipated 30-12 rag-dolling of Auburn, Saban's team has all but clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff. Based on the body of work -- and all the bodies left in its wake -- Alabama could just about "afford" a loss to Florida next week in the SEC Championship Game.
The CFP Selection Committee wouldn't dare leave No. 1 Bama out of the Football Four ... would it?
"I hate it when you say that," Saban said. "I hate it when they put that on TV, radio, internet."
Sorry, coach, but at this rate, they're going to put it up on billboards. Your defense hasn't given up a touchdown since before Halloween -- 35 days, to be exact.
Another 12-0 record -- only the third in Saban's 10 years -- was accomplished with the opposition going the last 17 consecutive quarters without a touchdown.
The system itself is partly to blame for such blasphemous thought. The idea from the beginning for the CFP is to take the best four teams, not necessarily four conference champions.
It's the reason No. 2 Ohio State may get in despite losing the Big Ten East division title on Saturday in a tiebreaker with Penn State. It's the reason the Buckeyes may get in with or without what is now guaranteed to be a two-loss Big Ten champion (Wisconsin or Penn State).
There isn't -- or shouldn't be -- any such consternation here.
"Guys talk about [wanting] to be legendary," said Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton.
And they will be, if the goal is only to get to a CFP semifinal on New Year's Eve. It isn't, of course. Alabama must first get through an offensively-challenged and injury-riddled Florida in next week's SEC title game.
Even if it doesn't, we're probably only talking about CFP seeding.
"Anybody that says you can afford to lose a game doesn't know what it's like to play sports," Alabama running back Damien Harris said.
"We're not done yet. Until we're done, we're not going to measure any type of success."
Alabama apparently doesn't do compliments well. It should be time to take stock, at least take some credit in being one of two undefeated teams left in the country -- the only Power Five program.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has played his way around the periphery of Heisman Trophy consideration. The defense might be the best Saban has assembled. A team that lost seven draft picks just might be better than the 14-1 squad from last season.
Altogether, they've won 24 in row -- four off the SEC record. Those games have been won by an average of 25 points.
Alabama went into Saturday having given up 300 fewer rushing yards than anyone else in the country. Auburn snapped it 45 times Saturday. On 14 of those plays, it gained either zero or negative yards.
The Tide players literally have to remember what it's like to trail.
Hamilton told teammate Reuben Foster that he found out about the down-the-stretch defensive excellence on social media.
"Somebody tagged me on Twitter: We hadn't given up a touchdown," Hamilton said. "I didn't know it. He didn't know it. Man, that's crazy.
"It definitely don't mean anything. It's all about how you finish."
To this point, they have finished well. Since falling behind Texas A&M 14-13 in the third quarter on Oct. 22, Alabama has outscored whatever was in front of it 142-18.
That's six field goals allowed in the last 35 days.
"I don't want to minimize the fact that it's a significant accomplishment to have an undefeated season," Saban said. "I also think there's a lot more out there for this team in terms of an SEC championship that we still hold in high esteem."
Losing to Florida seems as likely as Auburn making the Iron Bowl interesting: One of the best rivalry games in sports played down to expectations.
Late in the second quarter on Saturday, the Tigers had more points (nine) than first downs (one) and trailed only 10-9. Alabama was doing its best to show the world how it could get beat.
Turns out, Bama has to be a willing participant in that equation. Hurts tossed two interceptions to Auburn's Daniel Thomas. Both led to field goals.
It was incredulous that the Tide had only a 13-9 halftime lead despite the metrics. They had outgained Auburn 263-31.
"At halftime, I guess everybody thought I was going to throw a fit," Saban said. "I just told the guys, 'Look, all we have to do is go out there and play with some poise and confidence.'"
Without those turnovers, it's hard envisioning any playoff hopeful consistently moving the ball on Alabama. Clemson, maybe, but the Tigers aren't as good as the team that played the Tide down to the wire in January.
Washington? Ohio State?
Speaking for foreign concepts, early in the fourth quarter, a large portion of the 100,000 fans at Bryant-Denny turned the flashlight function on and waved their cell phones.
It may have been out of boredom. Or they have been signaling for an encore.
"This is like being in playoffs," Saban reiterated later. "You can't look at what you just did."