Stuart McNair

Alabama still second as no change in this week’s top four CFP rankings

Alabama stayed in the No. 2 position Tuesday as the College Football Playoff Selection Committee had its final rankings prior to conference championship games on Saturday

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee didn’t spring any surprises with its Tuesday announcement of the top four teams, and all of the so-called experts think there is no chance Alabama will be dropping down.

There is a critical weekend coming up in college football as four conferences have championship games, including Alabama meeting Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game. Bama and the Gators will meet at 3 p.m. CST (4 p.m. Eastern time) Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta with CBS televising the game.

At 11 a.m. CST Sunday, the CFP selections will include the top four teams in the nation for the playoff, as well as putting teams in three other bowl games.

On Tuesday, the committee had the same top four as last week with undefeated Clemson first, followed by the Crimson Tide, Oklahoma (which has completed its season since the Big 12 does not have a conference championship game), and undefeated Iowa.

Iowa will play the fifth ranked team, Michigan State, in the Big Ten championship game Saturday, while Clemson will play against North Carolina. On the outside is the Pac 12 championship game with seventh-ranked Stanford meeting USC (20).

Alabama’s opponent in Atlanta, Florida, is ranked 18th. Other SEC teams in the rankings are Ole Miss (the team that gave 11-1 Bama its lone loss) at 13 and two Tide victims, LSU at 21 and Tennessee at 25.

None of those analyzing the game think that Alabama will lose to Florida. On Monday, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban had a caution, of sorts. He said, “This is an outstanding team that we're playing. They wouldn't be in the SEC Championship game if they weren't. I think anybody out there that thinks this is not going to be a real challenge and a real test for our team, I don't know what you're thinking. I don't know what you're thinking. I really don't get it.”

Saban said the game is important. “This is a great opportunity for our team to play in the SEC Championship game,” he said. “This is something that we still feel is very, very important and something that's a significant accomplishment because of the quality of our league, winning our division and having an opportunity to play against a really good Florida team.”

Saban was laudatory in his praise of the Gators, coached by former Saban assistant and offensive coordinator at Bama, Jim McElwain. He said, “This is a very talented team. They're extremely well coached. Jim McElwain has done an outstanding job there.

“They've won 10 games. They're probably the best overall team that we've played against all year long. They're a great defensive team. Probably the highest ranked defensive team we've faced all year long from a national standpoint. They also do a great job of taking care of the ball and getting turnovers. They have a very positive turnover ratio.

“Their front's very talented. They're very athletic. They've got really good inside players. They've got good edge rushers. Their linebackers are really good players. They've got a really good secondary, good cover people, two good safeties. One of the best corners in the country (Vernon Hargreaves III). They've got really, really talented players. They're an outstanding defensive team.

Geoff Collins (Florida defensive coordinator and another former Alabama staffer) does a great job with them. They're well coached. They play hard. They really get after it.

“Very talented players on offense. The quarterback, Treon Harris, is a dual-threat kind of guy that can make plays passing or with his feet. Reminds me a lot of Blake (former Tide quarterback Blake Sims) in terms of his style of play. Kelvin Taylor is an outstanding running back, probably as good as we've played against all year. They have some very talented receivers and good skill guys who can make big plays, and this is one of the most talented special teams.

“They've struggled a little bit on field goals this year but other than that they have one of the highest net punts in the country. They have a great punt return guy, kickoff returns have been really good for them. This team is really, really good on special teams.”

There is absolutely no scenario by which Alabama could not make the four-team playoff is the Tide defeats Florida in Atlanta.

The top 25 in this week’s College Football Playoff Selection Committee poll:

1. Clemson, 2. Alabama, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Iowa, 5. Michigan State, 6. Ohio State, 7. Stanford, 8. Notre Dame, 9. Florida State, 10. North Carolina, 11. TCU, 12. Baylor, 13. Ole Miss, 14. Northwestern, 15. Michigan, 16. Oregon, 17. Oklahoma State, 18. Florida, 19. Houston, 20. USC, 21. LSU, 22. Temple, 23. Navy, 24. Utah, 25. Tennessee.

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