The list of undefeated teams in college football is down to two. And the College Football Playoff committee may have a huge dilemma on its hands.
No. 6 Auburn took down No. 1 Alabama 26-14 in the Iron Bowl on Saturday. Any hopes of a Tide comeback in the second half were blunted by self-inflicted mistakes. And now the Tigers will be the team that takes on No. 7 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in two weeks.
It’ll be the second time in four weeks that Auburn and Georgia will face each other. The Tigers demolished the Bulldogs two weeks ago at home. That win knocked then-No. 1 Georgia from the top spot in the CFP rankings and gave the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.
With Alabama’s loss, Central Florida and Wisconsin are now the only two undefeated teams in college football.
The Tide had a two-play sequence with less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter when the ball was snapped and quarterback Jalen Hurts wasn’t expecting it. After an unexpected snap on third down, it happened again on fourth down. But the Tide got bailed out because the snap was so premature. Auburn had 12 men on the field.
Alabama didn’t convert on the ensuing fourth down because receiver Robert Foster ran a two-yard crossing route on 4th-and-3. And when he caught the ball, he didn’t immediately turn upfield. He was tackled short of the marker.
Then, when Auburn was forced to punt, Alabama running back Damien Harris jumped offside. The penalty gave Auburn a first down and allowed the Tigers to run another two minutes off the clock and force Alabama to take two timeouts before forcing another punt.
Before the bad snaps happened on offense, a snap haunted Alabama’s special teams. As Alabama tried to cut Auburn’s lead to 20-17 with less than a minute to go in the third quarter, holder JK Scott fumbled the snap and the field goal attempt failed.
Auburn took that 20-14 lead thanks to a nice 69-yard drive in the third quarter that culminated in a Kerryon Johnson touchdown run. The Tigers kept Alabama’s defense off-balance all night, meshing runs to the inside perfectly with passes to the perimeter.
Johnson had 104 rushing yards and a passing touchdown — on a jump pass in the first quarter — before he left the game with an apparent shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
The loss puts Alabama in the same position Ohio State was in a year ago. Thanks to a loss to Penn State, Ohio State finished the season at 11-1 and didn’t win its division. Despite the lack of a division title, Ohio State got into the playoff.
The Buckeyes made it in large part because Big Ten champion Penn State did not. The winner of Auburn-Georgia is likely going to get into the playoff. Is there room in the four-team playoff for two SEC teams?
Remember, the winner of the ACC will have one loss unless Clemson loses to South Carolina later Saturday. And if Oklahoma wins the Big 12 title, the Sooners will have a loss and a conference title. And a Wisconsin win over Ohio State in the Big Ten title game means the Badgers are undefeated.
All three of those teams would have a better résumé — and a conference title — than the Tide. As would the SEC champion. Will Alabama’s pedigree help it get into the playoff and help the SEC get two teams in? Will the Tide miss the playoff for the first time since its inception?
We’re about to find out.
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