It’s Saturday evening, and either LSU or Alabama has just walked off the field in Bryant-Denny Stadium as the winner, moving to 9-0 on the season and likely bound for the No. 1 spot in Tuesday’s second College Football Playoff rankings. A spot that would make the Tigers or the Crimson Tide a virtual lock to make the final four if they win out.
So what are the consequences for the loser? As in 2011, when No. 2 Alabama stayed in the mix for the BCS National Championship Game despite a 9-6 overtime loss to No. 1 LSU, all may not be lost.
The team whose CFP hopes are generally believed better able to take a punch is LSU. The Tigers have the better overall resume, with three wins over top-10 teams at the time (Texas, Florida and Auburn). Florida and Auburn were still ranked Nos. 10 and 11, respectively, in the first CFP top 25, while three-loss Texas was unranked.
But Alabama has played no games against current CFP ranked opponents. After playing LSU, its only chances to beat RPI top-50 teams according to the website RealTimeRPI.com would be against No. 49 Mississippi State and Auburn. LSU already has six wins over RPI top 50 teams (No. 40 Georgia Southern, No. 27 Texas, No. 37 Utah State, No. 8 Florida, No. 49 Mississippi State and No. 11 Auburn) and still has No. 29 Texas A&M on the schedule after Alabama.
ESPN and SEC Network commentator Paul Finebaum said he believes Alabama is in a tight spot.
“Alabama must win this game,” Finebaum said. “Nick Saban is the only coach in the last 80 years to win the national championship without winning his division. That dog is not going to hunt this time.
“If LSU loses, that’s a real quality loss. If Alabama loses, forget about it.”
The analytical website FiveThirtyEight.com said Alabama currently has a 48.6 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 69.2 chance with a win. But the Tide’s chances fall to 13 percent with a loss. LSU now has a 38.3 percent chance of reaching the CFP that goes to 70.4 with a win, but the Tigers’ chances fall to 19.8 percent with a loss.