Middle Tennessee v Alabama
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Debate rages over whether No. 4 Alabama (12-1) deserved to be included in the College Football Playoff over unbeaten Florida State. But, one way or another, the Crimson Tide are in the field and have visions of winning their fourth national title of the CFP's four-team era. After beating two-time reigning national champion Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, the Crimson Tide won't be daunted by facing No. 1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl as they look to prove definitively that they still belong at the top of the sport.

This year's Crimson Tide aren't a historically dominant team like some of their predecessors under legendary coach Nick Saban, but they do boast three of the top 12 players in the 2024 CBS Sports NFL Draft Prospect Rankings. They also have a quarterback in Jalen Milroe whose confidence is surging after he developed from a struggling starter into a reliable star during the 2023 season.

Saban is considered the greatest college football coach of all time for a reason, and with weeks to prepare and motivate his squad, the Crimson Tide should be in peak form against the Wolverines on New Year's Day. Alabama is the most heavily tested team in the field and fully capable of being the last team standing when a champion is crowned in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 8. Here's why the Crimson Tide are poised to win it all.

1. Saban has the motivational edge

There is only one coach in this year's CFP field with a national title, and it's Saban, who is the sport's all-time leader in national titles with seven. Three of those national championships have come during the four-team CFP era, giving Saban a massive leg up with experience and comfort in these high-leverage situations. No other coach in this year's field has even won a playoff game before, let alone the whole thing.

Of the other three coaches in the field, only Michigan's Jim Harbaugh has coached in the CFP, but he's 0-2 in those games. In his 17 seasons at Alabama, Saban has never gone three straight years without winning the national championship, which means he is due to win it all.

What sets Saban apart isn't his scheme or philosophies on offense or defense. Opponents with weeks to prepare can mitigate the Crimson Tide's strengths in those areas with film study and precise game planning. Rather, what makes Saban so great in these moments -- when the Crimson Tide's talent advantage is minimal at best -- is his ability to motivate.

Given the circumstances around Alabama's inclusion in the CFP and loud chorus of voices around the country suggesting the Crimson Tide don't belong, Saban has been provided the perfect fodder with which to motivate his team. The only other time Alabama was the No. 4 seed in the CFP came in the 2017 season ... and the Crimson Tide won it all. The idea of mighty Alabama as an "underdog" may seem comical, but Saban can take whatever morsel of truth exists in that idea and use it to motivate his team. He's done it plenty of times before.

2. Milroe is the most dynamic QB in the field

No other quarterback in the CFP can make plays as a runner like Jalen Milroe, who has netted 468 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground entering the Rose Bowl. His production as a runner in both yards and touchdowns exceeds the combined totals of the other three quarterbacks in the CFP field.

A season ago, TCU quarterback Max Duggan completed just 14 of 29 passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions but led the Horned Frogs to a CFP semifinal victory over Michigan anyway, in part because he scored two touchdowns with his legs while netting 57 yards on the ground. Milroe can exceed what Duggan did against the Wolverines because he is similarly dynamic and arguably more capable of producing explosive plays as a runner and passer. 

With 39 completions of at least 25 yards, Alabama has proven far more explosive in the pass game than Michigan, which has accumulated just 20 such passing plays over the course of the season. While you can chalk that up in part to the Wolverines' lack of a need to fire off deep shots due to their dominance, the fact remains that Milroe is more proven as a deep-ball passer than his counterpart, J.J. McCarthy.

While the other quarterbacks in the field may be more refined as pocket passers, none of them can improvise like Milroe. On critical third- and fourth-down plays and when games are on the line, Milroe's athleticism and improvisational brilliance will provide the Crimson Tide an edge. It's an element that other teams in this field can't counter with their pocket-bound statues at quarterback.

3. Alabama is battle-tested

Alabama has trailed in nine of its 13 games and managed eight wins in those contests. No one in the country won more often this season in games they've trailed. The Crimson Tide are simply more battle-tested in close games than any team in the field, and that experience will pay dividends during the inevitably tense moments of the CFP.

Washington won six games this season in which it trailed, while Texas won five and Michigan won four. The Crimson Tide also spent less time leading this season than any team in the field and far more time trailing or tied. There will be no panic if Alabama finds itself behind in the second half of the Rose Bowl.

On the flip side, if the Crimson Tide manage to get ahead of the Wolverines, it will put Michigan in an unfamiliar position. Michigan is unaccustomed to playing from behind and was in just two games this season decided by seven points or less. Said another way: Alabama was the least-dominant team in the CFP field over the course of the season; however, the absence of dominance created a comfort in close games that can help the Crimson Tide win a championship.

Making a CFP case for ... No. 1 Michigan | No. 2 Washington | No. 3 Texas