Are the Alabama Crimson Tide ranked too high at No. 4?

Though nine weeks of play, Nick Saban's squad has yet to secure a win that makes them worthy of a College Football Playoff berth.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Are the Alabama Crimson Tide ranked too high at No. 4?

The College Football Playoff committee released their first rankings of the 2015 season on Tuesday, with Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Alabama making up the top four. Is Alabama too high at No. 4? A case can be made either way, and it very much depends on your perspective.

The case for is a simple one — they are a very good team, if a little inconsistent on offense. If asked to pick the four strongest teams based purely on talent, without regard to record, strength of opponent, quality wins etc, then Alabama would almost certainly make the top four.

Their defense is terrific, and arguably the best in the nation. All 20 players who have seen 60+ snaps on defense for the Crimson Tide this season have a positive overall grade. Things aren’t quite as rosy on offense, but Derrick Henry (+8.7) and Kenyan Drake (+8.5) give them a potent one-two punch at running back.

The argument against Alabama as a top-four team is focused on what they have, or haven’t done, to this point. Wins and (more importantly) losses have always played a key role when ranking teams in college football, and Alabama has a significant loss at home to an Ole Miss team that the committee felt was the 18th-best team in the nation.

The days when such a loss was a death knell to a team’s championship aspirations are over, and that’s a good thing. However, to overcome that kind of defeat Alabama needs an even more significant victory to their credit, and they don’t have that yet. Win against second-ranked LSU this weekend and they will, but for now they don’t. At this point the most notable victory they’ve secured in the committee’s eyes came on the road at 19th-ranked Texas A&M. Other teams with wins over similarly ranked teams have reason to feel aggrieved when comparing their body of work to Alabama’s. Here’s a look at a few of those teams:

Florida (7-1): The Gators crushed Ole Miss, matched Alabama with an equally convincing victory over Georgia, and their defeat came on the road against second-ranked LSU — a “better” loss than Alabama’s.

Notre Dame (7-1): The Irish have a victory over 22nd-ranked Temple to their credit, and their loss came at Clemson, the committee’s top-ranked team. A narrow defeat on the road against the number one team is as good as a defeat gets.

Iowa (8-0): The Hawkeyes lack Alabama’s overall talent level, but possess a stingy defense of their own, are undefeated and routed 21st-ranked Northwestern on the road.

So is Alabama overrated? No, not overrated, but they are certainly over-ranked for now. You can argue that Alabama is better than all three teams based on talent level, but with that home loss their body of work isn’t as convincing as it needs to be.


| Analyst

Kevin has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, with a particular focus on college football.

  • Ke Sa

    Count me among those that truly do want the four best teams in the playoffs each year, so I’m thankful of the subjectivity added to the comittee rankings vs a computer. Even though I don’t think Bama has been that impressive on the surface I do believe they are one of the four best. Case in point: the Ole Miss game.

    OM needed Bama to turn the ball over 5 times, at least two of those not forced and both of those 2 were deep in the red zone giving OM free points. They needed a miracle, once in a lifetime play (the only way Saban has been beat the past 4 years: Kick 6, Manziel, the Chad Kelley across his body throw, off 2 bama players helmets and into a waiting receiver), and they needed a late TD off a non-called illegal man down field. It took all of that for Bama to lose that game by less than a TD. It counts but thats where subjectivity came in for the comittee I think. If Bama had pulled out the win, they’d be undefeated and more than likely #1 in these rankings.

    Want another reason: Georgia. No one since Bama has had to play Nick Chubb. Bama crushed them in their yard with their star player. Take Derrick Henry out and Bama loses a few games, take Fournette out and LSU loses a lot of games. Losiong their best player killed any hope GA had and their players knew it and have played like it since then.

    4 teams have had bye weeks to prepare for Alabama.

    They’ve faced the 3rd SOS in the nation with games against #2 LSU, @ #20 MSU, @ rivalry game Auburn and then on to face a current ranked #10 Florida in the SECCG if they win out. NO ONE in the country will have to face that kind of test all season.

    • Josh Stewart

      “The only way Saban has been beat”

      I think you forgot to add ZEEEEEEEKE to that list. Bama overranked once again. SEC seemed dominate because they won the championship every year, until they added a playoff where other teams that previously weren’t given a chance, were. Bama probably would have won the championship last year if it wasn’t a playoff, since tOSU wouldn’t have been given a chance. SEC highly overrated.

      • Ke Sa

        Ha, I did totally forget about Zeke – my bad. I highly doubt Bama’s past championship wins had anything to do with someone being left out. If I were a tOSU fan though I’d be very careful calling anyone overrated. The reply was based on facts from this year reflecting on the articles question, no one else is worthy of being in the 4 spot this week. Funny though, you guys get one win against the SEC in a bowl game out of 9-10 tries and all of the sudden the SEC is overrated.

  • Joey C

    As usual, the biased committee gives the SEC conference way too much respect. Alabama is not that good. Ohio State not only beat them last year, they beat them up physically as well. Likewise, Michigan State beat Baylor proving that the Big Ten was the best conference. It is again this year. Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, Michigan, and Northwestern can play with anyone in the country. Again, Alabama is completely overrated again! LSU will expose them Saturday. Can’t wait! The REAL top 10: 1. Ohio State 2. LSU 3. Michigan State. 4. Clemson. 5. Baylor. 6. TCU. 7. IOWA. 8.Notre Dame
    9. Alabama. 10.Florida

    • Paul

      Yep LSU really exposed them….