The Las Vegas betting line for Alabama’s Sugar Bowl matchup against Clemson opened with the Crimson Tide favored by 1.5 points. It’s now at three points.
Still, Alabama players they feel like underdogs entering their semifinal matchup in the College Football Playoff. In fact, they’re embracing the idea.
What plays into that mind-set is the fact that defending national champion Clemson is the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, while Alabama is seeded fourth and had its future squarely in the CFP committee’s hands after losing to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
In their minds, UA players squeaked into the playoff. So even though they’re the favored team, they feel like underdogs.
“They’re the national champions, we’re not. So… ” sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts said.
Sometimes it’s fun to be the hunter instead of the hunted. Alabama players actually like it.
“Absolutely. I mean they beat us last year, so they have our number definitely,” tight end Hale Hentges said. “We’re hungry, and we’re going to keep that same mentality moving forward and hopefully try and win.
“We felt like there were some times where were on the outside looking in, not knowing whether we were going to get into the College Football Playoff, being fortunate enough to get in, and now we’re going to keep that same hunger and mentality and hopefully give these guys a really good run for their money.”
Some on the team are taking it even further, saying they feel like the black hats of college football, the team everyone wants to see lose. Given the off-the-charts television ratings for every game when Alabama is threatened or loses, they may be right.
Add in the fact that UA doesn’t lose often, and those feelings are heightened after they do.
“We’re seen as the villain,” Levi Wallace said. “I’m sure a lot of people don’t like Alabama because we’re always so good each and every year. That’s something Coach (Nick) Saban has instilled in us: Trying to be the best we can be.
“Just being the University of Alabama, whatever you guys say we are, that’s what we are, but we’re definitely the bad guys in college football.”
Clemson is also leaning into the underdog label, with coach Dabo Swinney saying essentially that Alabama is always favored no matter what the seeding says.
Of course, none of the psychological tricks matter once the teams take the field Jan. 1. But for now, it’s the motivation that keeps the game in focus.
“I think for sure because people were counting us out that didn’t want us in there,” defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “Some people just don’t like us. It’s true. But I think it definitely helped as motivation and fuel, especially if we do what we’re supposed to do and get to where we want to be, I think it will help us a lot.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.