The College Football Playoff hopes for No. 8 Alabama are alive and well after the Crimson Tide upended No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, sending a resounding statement to the CFP Selection Committee less than 24 hours before the four-team field is revealed on Sunday. It also leaves the committee potentially facing an unenviable scenario in which as many as three undefeated Power Five champions emerge with a trio of 12-1 teams -- Georgia, Alabama and No. 7 Texas -- fighting for the last spot.
Right off the bat, history bodes well for Alabama, which has now won 11 straight games after dispatching the two-time reigning national champion Bulldogs in the SEC title game. Not only has the SEC champion never missed the playoff, but the conference has even fielded multiple teams on two occasions, with Alabama and Georgia both qualifying in 2017 and 2021. The Crimson Tide have also never been left out in back-to-back seasons, only falling short of the field in 2019 and 2022.
Alas, it's not that simple for coach Nick Saban and Co. given other variables at play. Alabama was seven spots behind Georgia in the College Football Playoff Rankings entering Saturday, seemingly making it a tall ask to clear the Bulldogs even with the head-to-head victory in Atlanta. Another hurdle is that Texas, which served Alabama its lone loss of the season back in September, checked in a spot ahead of the Crimson Tide in the latest CFP Rankings before both teams won their respective conference championship games (Texas beat No. 18 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship earlier on Saturday).
Alabama still has additional factors working in its favor to potentially overcome those roadblocks, however. Key to the Crimson Tide's chances is that the College Football Playoff explicitly states that head-to-head results and championships are weighted in the selection process. That would give Alabama priority over Georgia, even with the rankings gap, as the Crimson Tide can claim both head-to-head and the SEC title over the Bulldogs.
As for the Alabama-Texas conundrum, the Crimson Tide lack head-to-head and both can have conference titles on their resumes. That's where strength of schedule, also explicitly listed as selection criteria by the College Football Playoff, could bail Alabama out if it comes down to those two schools for a final spot. It depends how the committee defines such criteria. As of Saturday's games, the Crimson Tide had four victories against teams currently among those in the College Football Playoff Rankings (Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee) as opposed to three for the Longhorns (Alabama, Oklahoma State, Kansas State).
Should Michigan or Florida State lose their respective conference championship games Saturday night, eliminating another undefeated team (or two) from the picture, the path conceivably becomes a bit clearer for the Crimson Tide. And while it would be unprecedented, there is also nothing that is stopping the committee from leaving an undefeated team out if it determines that it fails to pass the eye test. FSU is perhaps the most vulnerable in that regard given that it is narrowly in the field at No. 4.
In the end, there is no exact science to predict the rankings given the subjective nature, only the opinions of those watching the games from the committee headquarters in Grapevine, Texas, matter in the end. In the meantime, all Alabama can do is pitch its case, which, successful or not, has merit.