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It’s Still Alabama

By Jim Johnson
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The road to a ring still goes through Alabama.

The road to a ring still goes through Alabama.

Only one national champion, since Nick Saban took the reigns in Tuscaloosa, has earned its crown without beating the Crimson Tide head-to-head (aside from the four that Alabama won itself). That was Florida State in 2013, and they still had to beat a team that beat ‘Bama.

This particular iteration of Alabama, just like nearly all of its predecessors during that span, is the best college football team in the country, despite what numerous fans and media members across the nation would have people believe.

And who can blame them? Foregone conclusions aren’t fun, or interesting, or enticing to click on or watch. And yet, sometimes, seemingly foregone conclusions are the reality, whether or not that’s the optimal reality for a given individual or not. That’s the thing -- real reality is not contingent upon perception.

The perception of the Tide, by many, was that they didn’t deserve to be in the College Football Playoff; that they weren’t one of the four best teams. Those are, of course, two different arguments. Neither holds water, even independent of tonight’s Sugar Bowl result.

Statistically speaking, they were one of two teams in the FBS to rank in the top ten of both scoring offense and defense. As far as the advanced metrics, they ranked third in the combined FEI and S&P+ ratings.

From a resume standpoint, they were one of five one-loss power conference teams, with said loss being the most ‘quality’ of the group.

As far as the conference championship crowd goes, that’s a nonsense argument. Why arbitrarily lend so much imaginary credence to what is, effectively, just another football game? Granted, generally those conference title matchups pit two more highly touted teams against one another. This, obviously, should be considered. It provides the opportunity for an excellent resume boost. However, it’s still just another notch on a full body of work. Regardless of circumstances, games at one point in the season, even if they happen to have a trophy involved, should be weighted equally to games at any other point in the season, and judged solely on the opposition, outcome, and the way in which the outcome was reached. Disqualifying teams for not winning their conference championship is madness.

There would have been no justification for leaving Alabama, the best team in college football, out of the playoff. This program should be beyond having to prove itself to anyone. Even this individual team, name and history aside, was, by and large, so dominate that there should have been no doubt in anyone’s mind as to it’s true worth.

Still, they proved themselves once again, tonight in New Orleans, against the only team to even remotely rival them during the College Football Playoff era.

Clemson had its lowest passing total since October of 2015, against Alabama tonight. They averaged their fewest yards per attempt since November of 2014.

Clemson had its season low rushing total, against Alabama tonight. They had their fewest yard per carry average since 2014, as well.

Clemson had both its fewest total yards and average yards per play since November of 2011, against Alabama tonight.

The 24-6 final marked Clemson’s largest margin of defeat since 2014.

Alabama didn’t just exact revenge. It sent a message.

The Tide didn’t just beat one of this year’s premier run blocking offensive lines. They bullied it -- beat it into submission.

They didn’t just survive one of the best defensive lines in modern college football history. They manhandled and imposed their will upon it.

It feels like, by now, it would be impossible for Alabama to not get the respect it deserves, the respect it has earned, but that’s exactly what has happened.

Didn’t those people hear Nick Saban talking about rat poison earlier this year? The way to beat Alabama is not to disrespect them… just ask Vanderbilt. Now all that’s happened is somehow the best, most talented, well coached team in America gets to play the underdog.

Talk about foregone conclusions.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP