It's Setting Up For 2008 Playoff

Alabama Coach Nick Saban used the "mountain graph" to make his point about staying grounded as this amazing Crimson Tide football season continues. He said after Bama's 27-21 overtime win over LSU Saturday night that the Tide is only about 19,000 feet up the 26,000-foot mountain.

Nick Saban makes good points in his sermons (through the media) to the Alabama nation. He is correct that the summit has not been reached. He doesn't want anyone looking too far ahead. For his players and coaching staff, that is correct. The rest of us can't be blamed for taking a gander. After all, the view is pretty good from where Saban and Bama players have put us.

Saban has previously pointed out the 24-hour rule for his players, that they can enjoy a big win (such as the overtime victory over LSU) or be miserable over a loss (none this year in a 10-0 season) for 24 hours. Then attention turns to the next game. He also said that he doesn't get that 24-hour luxury, that he begins thinking about the next challenge as soon as the last one is complete.

Hopefully Saban managed to fit in a little enjoyment of his team's win. It couldn't have been more perfect from an Alabama standpoint. As classless as a large segment of the LSU fans were in deriding Saban, he was absolute class in his compliments to the LSU team, Tigers Coach Les Miles, and those in the LSU fan base who are his lifelong fans.

There has been some talk that Alabama didn't play well, that if LSU had just done this or that the Tigers could have won the game. It should not be forgotten that in the pre-season the defending national champions—LSU—were considered to have far too many weapons for any other SEC West team to challenge for the title. Today Alabama is 6-0 in SEC games and LSU has its only loss in the Western Division and is 3-3. That is a significant achievement for Bama.

True, no one can be absolutely sure that Alabama will be playing in the BCS championship game in Miami on January 8. But it's down to a handful, and Bama is one of them.

For Saban, it's way too early to talk about the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in Atlanta on December 6. But it's already a fact, nearly a month before that event, that Alabama and Florida will meet in that title game. It is the earliest in history the contestants have been determined.

Saban may have conflicting emotions about that. On the one hand, he has to be pleased that Bama is going to play for the SEC title. (And deep down, he hopefully is taking personal satisfaction that the clinching victory for Alabama came in Baton Rouge.) On the other hand, he may wish that some other team in the SEC West was still in contention as a part of keeping his team's focus on the task at hand. (On second thought, Saban probably doesn't have any concerns about keeping his team focused.)

This week that task is Mississippi State. Two weeks after that the job will be Auburn. With State having a two-game winning streak over Bama and the Tigers a much-celebrated six-game winning streak over the Crimson Tide, it's difficult to imagine anyone in the Alabama camp looking ahead as those games come up.

But for those who wish to look at the possibilities, it is an exciting time.

If things go as expected…

Immediately, there is the knowledge that things often do not go as expected. Penn State did not expect to be completely on the outside today, but a loss to Iowa probably ended any chance of another embarrassing Big Ten performance in the BCS Championship Game. Something could happen to Oklahoma or Texas Tech or Missouri or Florida that is unexpected. Or to Alabama, which is our primary concern.

But, if things go as expected, the SEC and Big 12 championship games on December 6 likely will be ballyhooed as the games to provide the BCS championship game participants. It is already known that current number one Alabama and current number three Florida will play in the SEC contest. It appears that the winner of the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game on Nov. 22 will play Missouri for the Big 12 title.

If that happens, USC will be the team left out. And that might help the Pac-10 and Big Ten begin to consider the benefit of the Plus-One proposition as put forth by the SEC and endorsed by Saban. The SEC would like to have the top four teams play in bowl games with the winners advancing to a national championship game.

We may get a preview of a four-team playoff in this year's SEC and Big 12 championship games. Considering its tradition, how fitting it would be for Alabama to pave the way.

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