The last time Alabama and Auburn squared off in a meaningful game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, we were treated to one of the best football games in SEC history, as the Tigers knocked off the Crimson Tide on a last-second field goal return. This year, well, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but the result ended up being the same.
Sixth-ranked Auburn knocked off No. 1 Alabama, 26-14. The Tiger defense only broke twice, while the Crimson Tide couldn’t do much of anything on third downs, going 3-for-11 on the game. Conversely, Auburn’s offense was able to do enough to win, accruing 408 yards of total offense, converting nine of their 18 attempts on third down, and riding star running back Kerryon Johnson for 30 carries, 104 rushing yards, and a score.
With the win, the Tigers will move on to the SEC Championship Game to take on a Georgia team that they mollywhopped earlier this month. It is the latest in what has been a sensational month or so for the Tigers, as they went from 5-2 with questions surrounding head coach Gus Malzahn’s future with the program to 10-2 and an SEC West title.
On the flip side, Alabama losing moves them to 11-1 on the year, which is still a great season but is the type of thing that could lead to some chaos. Now that the Crimson Tide cannot win the SEC, their resume will be of an 11-1 team without a conference title, a division title, or any wins over and top-10 opponents. The one thing it does have, though, is the brand name: Alabama is Alabama, and even if they don’t have the resume or the championships this year, they are still, perhaps, the best team in the country that just got caught on the wrong day.
Still, the committee is going to be in a weird spot when it has to pick the four teams that play for a championship. The SEC and ACC (Clemson or Miami) champions should be safely in, even though the Hurricanes fell to Pittsburgh on Friday and the Tigers have to beat South Carolina in Columbia on Saturday night. And if Oklahoma wins the Big 12 title game against TCU, it will be in safely.
But beyond that, there are a ton of questions for the committee to answer. Does Alabama’s general Alabama-ness get them in over, say, a Pac-12 champion or the Big Ten champion? If Ohio State wins the Big Ten, will their two losses keep them out, or will their resume of “conference title and wins over two top-10 programs in Wisconsin and Penn State” boost them over the Tide? And what about Wisconsin, which doesn’t have the best resume right now, but would have a win over the Buckeyes and a conference title if it wins the Big Ten?
For years, Alabama was the steady team that managed to rise above whatever chaos would occur, college football’s constant that would always be at the finish line. But thanks to Auburn’s win on Saturday afternoon, the Crimson Tide could be the team that brings chaos as a four seed that makes a whole lot of people angry when the committee chooses which teams will participate in the College Football Playoff in a little more than a week.