The last domino didn’t fall.
Or maybe it was two dominos left standing.
When it comes to the bridesmaid fate of schools that finish with their noses pressed cold against the outside of the College Football Playoff window − ranked fifth for a four-invitation soiree − explanations from the CFP selection committee can be a little vague.
Speculation held that the last domino standing was the need for a Kansas State blowout of TCU in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game, which was anything but a blowout as KSU nipped the Horned Frogs in overtime. But who knows? Alabama might’ve actually needed Baylor to knock off TCU two weeks earlier in what was a one-point game.
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That’s the game of solitaire that the CFP’s fifth-ranked team is always left to play. Alabama will instead face Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl on Dec. 31.
The Crimson Tide put itself in that position by allowing the outcome of five of its 12 games to come down to the final drive, and four of those to come down to the final play. Two losses emerged from those narrow margins, and Alabama coach Nick Saban noted after UA’s loss to Tennessee that it was no way to live.
‘This is not the way you want to manage through a season, by games coming down to the last play,’ Saban said at the time.
Two losses − albeit close, road losses against highly-ranked teams − made Alabama’s case for the CFP vastly different than the case it won in 2017, when it failed to reach the SEC title game and still qualified for the playoff. That Alabama team was 11-1 when it was tapped as the No. 4 seed, with a two-loss Ohio State squad squarely stuck at No. 5, and justified the bid by winning the national title.
This Alabama team was asking for more than the selection committee could give, having never before handed an invitation to a two-loss team. Indeed, the four qualifiers have just two losses between them, with an aggregate record of 49-2. Some of the chaos required for Alabama to slip through the door came to pass.
But the Crimson Tide strained the system with its ask, and dominos were left standing.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @chasegoodbread.