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.