ATLANTA — Kirby Smart has put Georgia football atop the SEC this season, but no one questions Nick Saban’s place in recent college football history.
And yet, one of the questions today is, should Saban’s 10-2 Alabama Crimson Tide be granted one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff?
“I guess I would ask the question: If we played these teams in question, would we be underdogs in the game or not?” Saban said on ESPN on Saturday, making his case.
UPDATE: Kirby comments on starter injuries from 50-30 win over LSU
“That should answer everybody’s questions relative to who the best teams are at present. That’s how this should play out.”
Saban also appeared on the Big Ten halftime show on Fox, getting out in front of as many people -- and recruits -- as possible.
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The seedings will likely hold greater drama than the four-team field, which is expected to be:
4. Ohio State
Saban’s point is well-taken — most would pick the Tide over the Buckeyes head-to-head.
Further, Saban indicated, Alabama is the team playing better football now that Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young is once again fully recovered from the injury he suffered earlier this season.
Tennessee, which beat the Tide earlier this season, isn’t as fortunate as its Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Hendon Hooker suffered a season-ending knee injury that derailed any CFP argument the Vols (10-2) might have had otherwise.
“We lost two games on the road to one top-five team, one top-10 team on the last play of the game, but now that [Young is] healthier and he’s able to practice, I think we’re a different team,” Saban said.
“I think you should look at the circumstances around a two-loss team versus a one-loss team and how are they playing at the end of the season? How are they playing at the present?”
Saban has another good point there, but it seems unlikely the CFP committee would reverse its decision under the circumstances, as the results from the championship games on Saturday did not help Saban’s case.
Alabama would have had a better chance had Michigan been upset by Purdue in the Big Ten title game or been taken to the wire, thus accentuating Ohio State’s 45-23 loss to the Wolverines in Columbus on Nov. 26.
But Michigan dominated the Boilermakers by a 43-22 count on Saturday night, and then Georgia’s 50-30 win over an LSU team that beat the Tide earlier this season further damaged the Alabama resume.
Finally, there’s the precedent of no two-loss team ever finding its way into the four-team CFP field.
So while Saban has a point about being one of the four best teams, Georgia fans who remember the 2018 season remember that Kirby Smart had a case back then, too, and most remember how that turned out.
To refresh the details, a historically dominant Alabama team that had beaten all of its regular-season opponents by 20 points or more had to come from two scores down to beat Georgia 35-28 in the SEC Championship Game.
Saban after that game about Georgia that “I sure as hell don’t want to play them again.”
And yet, the next day, it was revealed Saban voted Georgia No. 5 on his Coaches’ ballot.
Saban’s explanation back then likely explains why he knows Alabama doesn’t have much hope of getting in today despite his plea.
FLASHBACK: What Nick Saban said in 2018 about Georgia football and ranking after close win
“Well, I do think they’re one of the top four teams in the country,” Saban said at the time, “but I didn’t think they were going to get in the playoff with two losses.
“So I voted the teams that I thought had the best chance to get in, but I do think after playing Georgia they were one of the best four teams in the country.”
What comes around in the SEC often goes around.