National championship not likely

National+championship+not+likely

Drew Hoover

Quarterback Greg McElroy and wide receiver Julio Jones sit on the bench during Alabama’s 35-21 loss to South Carolina Saturday. CW | Drew Hoover

Jason Galloway

I wish I could be optimistic.

I want to point to the fact that the last three national champions before Alabama last year finished the season with a blemish on their record. I want to reiterate that the winner of the Southeastern Conference has won the past four national championships.

But it is the rest of the country – not the Tide, not the SEC – that forces me to examine the Crimson Tide’s national championship chances without any buoyancy.

Alabama’s loss to South Carolina Saturday did not knock the Tide out of the national championship hunt, but chances are, the reward for winning the rest of its games will be no more than a bowl of sugar.

Not to say that wouldn’t still be a fantastic season. But any school who sees its team begin the season at No. 1 always expects to finish there.

There are 11 undefeated teams left in the FBS, which is high for this point in the season. Let’s take a look at the possibility of a one-loss Alabama team finishing in one of the nation’s top two spots.

If Alabama wins out, it will take care of two of those undefeated teams (LSU and Auburn), and if the voters have any sense – like they have in the past – a 12-1 Tide team who runs the table the rest of the way and wins the SEC would have priority over an undefeated Boise State, TCU, Utah or Nevada by the end of the season.

That leaves Ohio State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Michigan State.

It looks like the Big Ten Championship is coming a year too late for the Tide. Ohio State and Michigan State will not play each other this season, unless it’s for the national championship.

Penn State, which has lost its last two games by 20 points, now looks like a fraud. That means Michigan State’s only true test the rest of the way will be at No. 15 Iowa. Ohio State has a few more tests – Iowa, No. 18 Wisconsin and Michigan – but the Buckeyes are the new No. 1, and it would certainly not surprise anyone if they won out.

Nebraska and Oklahoma (Both in the Big 12) don’t play each other this year, either. But the two would play each other in their conference championship game, eliminating one.

Although Oklahoma has been on the edge of losing many times this year, the Sooners only two real tests left seem to be two road games against No. 21 Missouri and No. 20 Oklahoma State.

Nebraska’s next three games are against Texas, Oklahoma State and Missouri. If the Cornhuskers survive that stretch, 12-0 will likely be in their future.

That leaves No. 2 Oregon. The Ducks play two ranked teams to finish the season – No. 17 Arizona and No. 24 Oregon State – but I don’t expect a team with an average margin of victory of 38 points to lose either of those games.

Of course, it is highly possible that four of these five teams could lose. But then comes another problem; all of this is assuming Alabama wins the rest of its games, including the SEC Championship.

Although the Tide certainly has the talent to do so, Alabama is just not as good of a team as last year. The chances of Alabama winning out are even shaky before you throw on all the other help the Tide needs to finish at No. 1 or 2.

If it happens, I won’t be shocked. But it’s a long road ahead, and even perfection from here on out may not be enough.