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Shouldn’t Alabama have to prove its ranking on the field, too?

Reputation gives the Tide benefit of the doubt when it comes to the CFP selection committee, and that’s not right

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban watches team warm up prior to game vs. Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Oct. 16, 2021.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban watches quarterback Bryce Young pass during warmups prior to game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.

Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press

Wouldn’t it make things simpler if Alabama were automatically penciled in for one of the four berths in the College Football Playoff, and then the selection committee would only have to find three more teams?

That’s the way it works anyway, so let’s just make it a formal agreement — Alabama plus three other schools. It reduces the selection process by 25%. You know, one less thing.

The College Football Playoff selection committee released its first rankings of the season this week. You-Know-Who has one of the coveted top four spots, of course. Alabama is ranked No. 2, with a 7-1 record, sandwiched between unbeaten Georgia at No. 1 and unbeaten Michigan State at No. 3. Oregon, 7-1, is No. 4.

Meanwhile, both unbeaten Cincinnati and Oklahoma — ranked No 2 and No. 4 respectively for weeks in the AP poll — fell four spots in the CFP rankings, to No. 6 and No. 8. They both fell off a rankings cliff.

Look, Alabama is a good team; in fact, Alabama is probably the best team in the country, on paper. That’s the problem; the Tide’s reputation precedes them. They should have to prove their ranking on the field and they haven’t. Instead, they are given the benefit of the doubt. They are ALABAMA.

Their stiff, no-fun coach does insurance commercials with ducks and Deion. Their recruiting class is ranked the best every year. They dominate the draft and televised appearances. Every year they are placed in the playoff — this would mark the seventh time in the eight-year history of the playoff that they were invited to the field. So, they get points just for showing up. Step aside and show them to the front of the line.

Let’s put it this way: What would it take NOT to include Alabama in the playoffs? Two losses? Ten?

Let’s not make it easier for the Tide. They have enough advantages. Make them show us that they are as good as their reputation every season. Forget they are Alabama for a moment. What have they done this season?

They’ve beaten two teams that are currently ranked in the CFP rankings — Mississippi State and Ole Miss. But they lost to No. 14 Texas A&M. They also struggled to beat Florida (score: 31-29), which has lost half of its eight games this season. They held a mere seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter against Tennessee, another 4-4 team.

You could make a strong case for the other schools in choosing teams for the playoffs, ahead of ’Bama.

Michigan State beat Michigan last week. Michigan was ranked seventh at the time. That means the Spartans remain unbeaten, and it should count for a lot if a team can run the table — something even Alabama can’t claim.

Oklahoma has no wins over ranked teams, but has plowed through a schedule of name programs — Nebraska, West Virginia, Texas, TCU and Kansas — without a loss this season. Ever since freshman Caleb Williams replaced Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler at quarterback, the Sooners have been rolling, averaging 48.5 points.

AP21254759655858.jpg

Ohio State defensive lineman Zach Harrison, left, chases Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown during victory over the Buckeyes Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. Oregon checked in at No. 4 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, which were released this week.

Jay LaPrete, Associated Press

Oregon, like Alabama, has one loss (to Stanford, in overtime) but handed fifth-ranked Ohio State, in Columbus, its only loss.

Cincinnati’s fall in the rankings might be the most troubling. No team outside the Power Five conferences has ever been invited to the playoff. There’s a ceiling for those schools, and Cincinnati is Exhibit A. The Bearcats gave No. 10 Notre Dame its only loss of the season, in South Bend. They’re the real deal. But, barring a change in the rankings, they won’t be in the playoffs.

All of the above schools are ranked behind Alabama. Most observers would say Alabama is the best team, and that Georgia is merely holding ’Bama’s place at the front of the line until they get there. That’s probably true. The last six times Alabama and Georgia met on the field, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 3 in four of those games, and No. 4 and No. 8 in the others. Alabama beat them every time, including the 2017-18 CFP championship game.

But that was then. This is a new season. Push the reset button and make Alabama earn it like the rest of the schools.