Nick Saban argues for inclusion of Alabama in college football playoffs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. –Nick Saban wasn’t sure who won or lost across the country after Auburn’s 49-27 rout at Alabama on Saturday, but he’s sure his team deserves at least consideration for one of the four sports in the College Football Playoffs.

The Crimson Tide, which has appeared in all but one CFP since its inception in 2014, would be the first two-game losing streak to qualify for the playoffs and clearly need help getting there.

“I don’t make those decisions, but I know how resilient this football team is,” Saban told ESPN. “We lost two games against top 10 opponents, both in the last game of the match and both on the road. We could have easily won both games, but we didn’t. We are a good football team and I hope people recognize that and we have a chance.”

Alabama has suffered a few scars along the way, whether it’s quarterback Bryce Young’s shoulder injury, unusual penalties and errors, or a defense that surrendered a total of 84 points in the two losses. The Tide lost 52-49 to No. 10 Tennessee on a last-second basket and 32-31 in overtime to No. 5 LSU when the Tigers made a 2-point conversion.

“We had a lot of tight games, we didn’t always play our best in those games, but we did enough to get 10 wins and we hung on as a team,” Saban said. “I guess we’ll see what happens now.”

Saban sported his own scars after the game. He was accidentally hit in the face by a player’s shoulder pads while playing on the sidelines. His left cheek was bloody and he had a gash in his face.

“Man, this is the third time I’ve been hit this season. I never used to get hit and I saw stars after this one,” said Saban, who joked that that he took the hardest hit of the game and didn’t even go. to the tent for the wounded.

Saban said one of the differences on the Alabama team now is that Young is as healthy as he was after injuring his right shoulder against Arkansas and not having played against Texas A&M. His first game back was against Tennessee on October 15.

“Bryce played really well, but he had a month where he really couldn’t train,” Saban said. “He’s been able to come in and play at his same level, but we probably haven’t been able to grow as much around him as we would have had he been able to train more. He’s healthy now, and that makes us a different team.”

Alabama (10-2) was No. 7 last week in the latest college football playoff standings. The Tide is going to need things to drop just to climb into that top four, but were helped by Clemson, Ohio State and Oregon who all lost on Saturday. A loss to TCU in the Big 12 Championship game would also help as well as USC’s loss in the Pac-12 title game.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said after Ohio State’s loss to Michigan on Saturday that “without a doubt” the Buckeyes deserved a playoff spot. Saban, who was asked if he would lobby for Alabama, said: “Look, if I think this will help our team, I definitely will. I haven’t really thought about it until now. So, you know, my whole goal was to win this game. It’s the best opportunity we’ve had for something good to happen for us.

Saban said one of the things that kept Alabama focused this season was the negativity surrounding the team, which also won two games in the dying seconds against Texas and Texas A&M. It’s only the fourth time since Saban arrived in 2007 that Alabama has lost two games in the regular season, and he suggested maybe some fans were just being spoiled.

“A lot of things that have been written and said about this team have really united the players,” Saban said. “They were saying things like, ‘That’s all we have, but all we need are the people in this room. … We have great fans and a great stadium and a good atmosphere tonight and we appreciate it and I appreciate that, and I know our players too. But people who are negative and the naysayers, if they support the University of Alabama, you’re hurting the university or the program because it’s a reflection of our culture and how positive we are . And this program was built on the positive.

Saban noted that Alabama had 95,000 fans coming to the spring game when he first got the job.

“Everyone wanted to be part of it,” he said. “It wasn’t built on naysayers. It wasn’t built on negatives. It wasn’t built on expectations that if we don’t succeed on a certain level there will be a lot of I think that actually brought this team together more than anything else, and they wanted to persevere and prove what they could do.”

As for questions about the culture of this Alabama team, Saban said those usually come up when people are critical.

“The program culture here is as good as it always has been, and the players are competing as well as they always have,” Saban said. “So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the culture here. We’ve lost two games by four points. Nobody feels worse about that than me and the players who are hugely committed to trying to win those games in tough spots on the road.”


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