By: Edward Egros

oklahoma

It's a Must Win for Alabama

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Let's suppose Oklahoma wins the Big 12 Championship, Ohio State wins the Big Ten, Clemson takes the ACC and, wait for it, wait for it, Georgia claims the SEC title. In other words, Alabama is the only team in the Top 6 to lose AND, aside from Notre Dame, the only team not to have a conference championship.

Seth Walder of ESPN says
Alabama would still make the College Football Playoff, per their Playoff Predictor. This metric offers a likelihood a team makes the playoff, given its resume, taking into account five variables: Strength of Record, Football Power Index, Number of Losses, Conference Championship and Independent Status. This model says Bama would have a 43% chance to make it, while Ohio State would have just a 37% shot and Oklahoma at 28%.

With all due respect to the model, the 6% difference is not large enough to feel comfortable about the prediction (confidence intervals and comparisons are not readily available). Also, if there are messages or lessons the committee is trying to teach college football fans, in 2015 we learned conference championships are hugely significant, unless that team suffered two losses, like 2016 when the two-loss Big Ten Champion Penn State Nittany Lions missed out to one-loss Ohio State, or 2017 when one-loss Alabama edged the two-loss Big Ten Champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

This year, if Alabama loses in this scenario, they would be compared with a one-loss Big 12 champion and a one-loss Big Ten winner for one available spot. Again, this is unlike last year when the committee compared Bama with a two-loss team. There are three teams instead of two to consider, and each have one loss.

If consistency is something to be strived for, and conference championships deserve added weight, and if
geographic diversity is still a consideration, then Alabama, despite everything accomplished this year, is in a "must win" game Saturday afternoon to make the College Football Playoff.