The Iron Bowl doesn’t have College Football Playoff or SEC West implications tied to it, but there are plenty of ramifications for the postseason.
If Auburn wins, it becomes Bowl eligible. Meanwhile, Alabama locked that up weeks ago. The question now is: what game will the Crimson Tide play? There are a variety of possibilities heading into the final week of the regular season.
So, past the pride that is on the line in the Iron Bowl every year, there is more at stake when No. 8 Alabama (9-2, 5-2 SEC) faces Auburn (5-6, 2-5) on Saturday (2:30 pm, CBS) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tigers are looking for their first win in Tuscaloosa since 2010. That’s the last time the Crimson Tide lost three games in the regular season.
With more results in college football each week, there are more possibilities ― and sometimes more clarity ― as to which team could end up in which bowl. Here are three of the most likely scenarios for the Crimson Tide as long as it beats Auburn.
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Most projections have said this, and it makes sense for Alabama. The highest-ranked team according to the CFP rankings will go to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The next two SEC Bowl opportunities will be the Cotton Bowl or the Orange Bowl. The Cotton Bowl goes to an at-large team against the top Group of 5 team, but the Orange Bowl is open only to the ACC vs. an SEC or Big Ten team.
Georgia is expected to be the top-ranked SEC team and make the playoff. Whether the CFP committee still has Tennessee ranked above Alabama remains to be seen. The committee could keep the Vols ahead of the Crimson Tide, despite Tennessee’s 63-38 loss to unranked South Carolina. The Vols have the head-to-head win, but Alabama also doesn’t have as bad of a loss as Tennessee now has. The Crimson Tide lost both of its games on the last play.
To that point, the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll released Sunday has Alabama at No. 7 and Tennessee at No. 11.
Either way, it’s quite possible the Vols could get one of the at-large spots in the Cotton Bowl. It probably wouldn’t make sense for the Crimson Tide to go there for a second consecutive year.
The Orange Bowl then becomes the most likely for Alabama. In this scenario, LSU would be the SEC team in the Sugar Bowl. But…
Let’s say LSU wins the SEC Championship Game. The playoff picture gets further muddled.
If any two-loss team was going to make the postseason, it would likely be the SEC Champion who also beat the top team in Georgia. In that scenario, both LSU and Georgia could make the playoff, opening up the Sugar Bowl slot. If Alabama is the third-highest ranked team in the CFP rankings in the SEC, the Crimson Tide would go to the Sugar Bowl.
There’s also one other possible scenario ― LSU loses the SEC Championship Game by a wide margin. The Tigers would have three losses, albeit because of having played one more game. Perhaps the committee decides to rank two-loss Alabama ahead of the Tigers, opening another possible window to the Sugar Bowl.
Don’t book your trip to New Orleans just yet, but it’s not impossible.
This probably isn’t terribly likely, but it’s also not off the table. If LSU ends up going to the Sugar Bowl, then that would leave the Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Citrus Bowl as the three top destinations for the Crimson Tide and Tennessee. Even though Alabama just played in the Cotton Bowl, the folks in Texas could see the Crimson Tide as the most appealing option, depending on who else is available. Or, it could pick a team such as Penn State, moving Alabama to the Citrus Bowl if Tennessee got the Orange Bowl spot.
The CFP rankings on Tuesday night, with the Vols losing, will be telling as to how this could play out for the Crimson Tide in terms of Bowl Landing spot.