Three weeks into this season’s NCAA Football betting lines, it looked like Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide were all but out of this season’s CFP race, thanks to 43-37 home loss to the then-fiery Ole Miss Rebels. Roughly six weeks since that loss, and with four games left in their regular season calendar, the Crimson Tide are sitting pretty at second-best in the SEC West, sporting a 7-1 (4-1 conference record). The only team sitting above the Tide in the West is the LSU Tigers (7-0, 4-0), with the Ole Miss (6-2, 3-1) and Mississippi State (6-2, 2-2)sitting next in line behind Alabama in the division.
But then again, LSU is the team Alabama will be hosting in Week 10 in the biggest NCAA Football clash of the weekend, so a win by the Tide could see them go top of the SEC West and place them in solid control of their playoff fate as a strong one-loss team. This should especially be made easier by the fact that SEC East’s previously lone unbeaten team, the Florida Gators, were beaten by LSU a couple of weeks ago, and their starting QB Will Grier is out of the year with suspension.
The biggest question right now is—can Alabama make good value of its NCAAF odds to reach 2016 college football playoff? Or better yet, what needs to happen for the Crimson Tide to solidify its place as SEC’s representative in the playoff? Well, here’s what hat has to happen for Bama to make this year’s College Football Playoff.
As per the college football schedule, here are the teams Bama have to face before the end of the regular season:
• vs. LSU on November 8th
• at Mississippi State on November 14th
• vs. Charleston on November 21st
• at Auburn on November 28th
Looking at the slate above, it is safe to say that Alabama should be able to cruise to an easy win over Charleston. The road trip against Auburn should have been a classic Iron Bowl contest, a game worthy of testing Alabama, but given the way the Tigers have been bleeding cheap points and losses, we fancy the Tide somehow finding a way to win game. Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State Bulldogs have been heavily underrated, largely due to their 2-2 record in the SEC, but I see them testing the Tide very strongly. But then again, Saban has owned the Bulldogs over the years and this game should be no different, assuming history decides to repeat itself.
Plus, the Tide owned the line of scrimmage, dominated with solid drives downfield and forced turnovers expertly in their road games against top-10 teams Georgia and Texas A&M, so doing the same in their chancy road tests against Mississippi State and Auburn should be possible. And then, there is the biggest test of them all—next week’s clash against the LSU Tigers. For several juicy reasons and with countless of dicey matchups, LSU’s trip to Alabama is well-capable of sinking the Tide’s playoff hopes. Nonetheless, the fact that Alabama will be coming off a bye week and will be playing at home in next week’s game against LSU, gives the Tide some slight edge to win the game.
Entering Week 9, Ohio State, Baylor, Clemson, LSU, TCU and Michigan State are all unbeaten and better-ranked than Alabama in the nation. Given that the Tide won’t play any of these teams (apart from LSU) means that any form of outside help from the outside conferences will be gladly accepted by Alabama. The fact that we still have matchups like Ohio State vs. Michigan State, and TCU vs. Baylor is particularly a big motivation to Bama’s playoff hopes, considering that not many power five conference teams will finish the season unbeaten. Added to any other unprecedented upsets, like the one delivered by Georgia Tech over the then-unbeaten Seminoles last week, we could easily see movement at the top, allowing Alabama to climb back in to the playoff picture.
No doubt, Alabama’s star RB Derrick Henry (1044 yards rushing and 14 TDs on 180 carries) has been a breath of fresh air in Alabama’s offense and a great savior to the team on many occasions. Alabama’s defense has equally been pivotal in times that Alabama needs to grind out wins, as we saw in the 19-14 slugfest win over Tennessee last week. Essentially, that’s the reason Alabama ranks 15th-best in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 16.4 PPG.
Nevertheless, there is need for a lot of improvement if Alabama is to stand the test of time. For starters, QB Jake Coker (1623 passing yards, 11 TDs and 7 interceptions for a QBR of 56.7) needs to find major consistency, along with his receivers, in their passing game that is averaging just 233.4 PPG (good for just a No. 60 ranking in the nation). As is clearly detailed in this informative piece, the Tide also need to clean up their game on areas like penalties, negative plays, Third-down conversions and red zone touchdowns.
Finally, and just as important as the above points, Saban’s boys must avoid complacency in their game. Getting overconfident and letting off the gas, like they did in their unconvincing home win over the Vols in their previous game, could very much see them punished with an unlikely upset before the end of the regular season, thus ending their still-alive playoff hopes.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Alabama will get much outside help, and it’s not going to be easy to win out the above-mentioned games, but should they do so, then the Crimson Tide will surely find themselves squarely in the SEC Championship Game, most probably against Florida or Georgia. Then, given the injury and suspension woes for these two SEC East teams that look the part of topping their division, there is no doubt Alabama should be able to take care of business rather easily. And with that, the Crimson Tide should be in 2015-16 College Football Playoff picture. It’s not a sure science, but knowing Saban’s coaching credentials, and the fighting spirit in the Alabama team, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to dream of Alabama making a successive playoff appearance, would it?
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