Oddsmakers say Alabama football is fine, but try telling a Finebaum caller that | Toppmeyer
Jerome from Birmingham called in to “The Paul Finebaum Show” on Monday in a hysterical state. Mighty Alabama had fallen, and the sky would soon follow.
“We live in the moment, and right now my (dang) moment ain’t good!” Jerome shouted, a feeling shared by many Alabama fans.
Alabama’s College Football Playoff goose isn’t cooked, but the oven is preheating after a 41-38 loss to unranked Texas A&M on Saturday.
Four of Nick Saban’s six national championship teams at Alabama suffered a loss, a reminder that the Crimson Tide (5-1, 2-1 SEC) can still stand atop the heap at the end of this season.
Oddsmakers say so, too.
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SportsBetting.ag gives Alabama 5-2 odds to win the national championship. Only No. 1 Georgia has better odds. OddsChecker gives Alabama an implied chance of 28.6% to win the national championship, trailing Georgia’s 41.7% chance, but ahead of teams like Ohio State (9.1%), Oklahoma (6.3%) and Cincinnati (3.2%).
An important caveat about sports books: They’re in the business of enticing profit-generating betting action, not predicting the future.
And a nugget about Saban’s four one-loss Alabama national championship teams: Each of those losses came to opponents ranked in the top 15 on the date of their triumph over the Crimson Tide.
Saban does have one national title during a season in which he lost to an unranked foe. That came in 2003. Saban’s LSU team lost an Oct. 11 game to unranked Florida, which entered with a 3-3 record. LSU rebounded to win the BCS national championship, while Southern Cal earned the AP crown.
One question exiting Saturday is whether the result says more about how much Texas A&M (4-2, 1-2) underperformed throughout the season’s first five games or about Alabama’s vulnerability.
Probably, it’s some of both.
Recruiting rankings for Alabama’s roster indicate that the Crimson Tide is among the most talented teams in the country.
The Tide possesses some of the nation’s top-performing players at certain positions, including quarterback Bryce Young, running back Brian Robinson Jr., offensive tackle Evan Neal, outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis.
“If we relax against the University of Alabama, then we are the stupidest team in college football,” said Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, whose Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1 SEC) beat Texas A&M in Week 5 and will host Alabama on Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN).
But to cast aside Alabama’s loss to the Aggies as a speedbump on the path to greatness is to ignore what we’ve seen throughout six games.
Florida physically handled Alabama throughout the final three quarters of Alabama’s 31-29 victory on Sept. 18. Texas A&M had more points by halftime Saturday than it scored in entire games against Colorado, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
Alabama has allowed 132 points, matching last season for the most points allowed through six games during the Saban era. Part of that speaks to the evolution of the college game in a more high-scoring direction.
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Last year’s defense improved as the season progressed. This year’s defense is trending in the wrong direction and posted its worst performance against the Aggies.
Analytics show a gap between Alabama and Georgia.
The Crimson Tide has six players who rank in the top five within the SEC at their respective positions according to player grades calculated by analytics website Pro Football Focus.
Georgia has 15 players whose performance ranks in the top five in the SEC at their respective positions.
Notably, Alabama doesn’t have someone playing to the caliber of a Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosley, Reggie Ragland or Dylan Moses in the middle of its defense.
Alabama’s top-graded linebacker by PFF is Christian Harris, who ranks 29th among SEC linebackers. (PFF considers Anderson an edge rusher.)
Meanwhile, Georgia has the SEC’s top three graded linebackers in Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall and Quay Walker.
Alabama could play a lot better than it did Saturday and still lose to Georgia in a potential SEC Championship Game matchup.
And the CFP has never admitted a team with two losses.
Poor Jerome from Birmingham is one loss away from a full-blown meltdown.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.