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AL.com All-Access: Is Alabama in the College Football Playoff, win or lose vs. Georgia?

There’s a good bit of College Football Playoff drama heading into championship weekend, but it’s debatable as to how much of that intrigue involves Alabama.

There’s a good chance the Crimson Tide is already in the playoff for the fifth straight year, whether it beats Georgia or not in the SEC championship game. The CFP selection committee has had Alabama No. 1 since the beginning of the rankings, even when the Crimson Tide’s resume wasn’t all that strong based on its early-season schedule.

First, let’s deal with the obvious …

If everything goes “chalk” and the favorites all win Saturday, it seems like it would be Alabama 1, Clemson 2, Notre Dame 3, Oklahoma 4. The Sooners would have the edge over Ohio State based on both a less-egregious loss (3 points to Texas vs. 29 to Purdue) and the fact that Oklahoma would have avenged its one defeat.

(The chaos scenario is Oklahoma and Ohio State both losing and Alabama blowing out Georgia, which would open the door for Central Florida — assuming it beats Memphis without star quarterback McKenzie Milton — to waltz into the playoff. That’s possible, but highly unlikely).

But if Alabama were to lose to Georgia, things could get a little haywire. I’m of the belief that the Crimson Tide is still in the playoff win or lose, but it would certainly be a controversial decision.

So let’s assume Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame and Clemson are your four playoff teams (in some order), even though Ohio State and Oklahoma also win their games Saturday. That would mean that THREE Power 5 conferences — the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten — would be cut out of the national championship picture, two of which would be one-loss teams.

I’m not sure that would go over well with the game’s powers that be, though it might be the push college football needs to expand the playoff. (I’m on record as saying that I’m fine with four, but I also think conference championships should mean something).

And I think they’d have a beef, to be honest. For one thing, Notre Dame didn’t have to risk playing in a conference championship game.

For another, the SEC and ACC play only eight conference games; the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 play nine. (In other words, teams in those three leagues play 10 Power 5 opponents each year; the ACC and SEC play only nine).

At any rate, if you pick both Alabama and Georgia after a Bulldogs win, how do you line up the teams for the playoff? The committee would probably make it Clemson 1, Notre Dame 2, Georgia 3, Alabama 4.

I don’t think anyone thinks Notre Dame is a better team than Alabama, but do you drop the Fighting Irish to 4 without them having played a game? Probably not. (And that would set up Alabama vs. Georgia in the semifinals after they just played in the SEC championship game, which is less than ideal).

Otherwise, you’d get Clemson vs. Alabama in the semifinals, which is the matchup everyone would rather see in the championship game (including the Tigers, probably). But you can’t really put Alabama at 3 ahead of Georgia after the Bulldogs just beat the Crimson Tide.

This debate might be largely moot, because it’s hard to see Alabama losing to Georgia on Saturday. But it could happen, and then things would get really interesting.

At any rate, I think Alabama is in the College Football Playoff, win or lose. (Maybe not if the Crimson Tide lost by 4 touchdowns to Georgia, but what are the chances of that happening given that a Nick Saban Alabama team has never lost by more than 14 to anyone?).

So what do you think? Is Alabama definitely in, win or lose?

I’ll take your questions or comments on that or anything else on your mind, beginning at 10 a.m.

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