They didn't win a conference championship. They didn't even get into the SEC championship game, but even though they weren't considered top two in their own conference, a 13-member committee decided they were one of the top four college football teams in the country. After further review, and despite all of the Crimson Tide hype, the committee is probably right.
Immediately after the Tide's lone loss to in-state rival Auburn Thanksgiving weekend, coach Nick Saban brazenly told the media that his team deserved to play for a national title. 'Bama had just been eliminated from the SEC championship, theoretically making them the third best team in the conference at best. Auburn and Georgia would play for the league crown, with the winner almost assured a spot in the final four.
Alabama would go into the final weekend ranked fifth, meaning a loss by any of the top four would give them a chance to move up. That came when Ohio State knocked off previously unbeaten Wisconsin for the Big 10 championship, but many felt that the Buckeyes would leapfrog 'Bama into the top four because they won a conference title. Others felt the selection committee might be bias toward the Tide, because the school has played in all of the previous College Football Playoffs, and has four championships in eight years. With Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia virtually locked in the top three, the announcement of number four created the drama.
When Alabama's name was revealed, the bias theory seemed to set in. The committee picked them just because they were Alabama. However, the Tide's only loss was to Auburn, while Ohio State had two defeats. One, early in the year to Oklahoma, which is not a big deal considering the Sooners are in the playoff, but Ohio State's failure to make the final four actually happened on November 4. The Buckeyes got thumped 55-34. You can't lose a game like that and say you are one of the top four teams in the nation. The committee saw it that way, and 'Bama got the nod instead.
It seems wrong that a non-conference champion gets to play for a title. However, it also seems wrong that a team with two losses when everyone else has zero or one should get in, especially when one of those losses was by 31 points to an unranked team. What is the committee supposed to do? Personally, Central Florida (12-0) should have gotten the nod, but despite being the only undefeated team, UCF isn't in a big conference and the committee doesn't think they deserve it. Put them in the big boys and see how they do. They do end up with a New Year's Day bowl against Auburn.
The playoff, while still not a perfect system, gives the sport a pretty good field. Fourth seed Alabama will play top-ranked Clemson in the Sugar Bowl New Year's night. It's a rematch of the last two championship games, and figures to be a good one. Traditionalists will not like that the Rose Bowl is the other semi, and instead of a Pac 12-Big 10 matchup, will feature #2 Oklahoma and #3 Georgia—which should also be a great game.
Get ready for this, though, and SEC haters have to shudder to think about it. It could be Alabama-Georgia in the final January 8 in Atlanta.
Going bowling: If the Rose Bowl wasn't a playoff semifinal, it would have featured Pac 12 champion USC against Big 10 champ Ohio State. That matchup will happen, only it will be in the Cotton Bowl December 29... It's not quite the Who Cares Bowl in Mississauga, Ontario, but it might as well be. UCLA will face Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl December 26... I have no idea what a Gasparilla Bowl is, but Temple and Florida International will play in it December 21.
Flex this: Under the NFL's 'flex scheduling', NBC had the option of carrying yesterday's LA Rams-Arizona Cardinals game, but opted instead to stick with Philadelphia-Seattle. Instead, Fox showed the game to most of the country, except, of course, northern California (and the New York area), which got stuck with Raiders-Giants. The Rams are a surprising 9-3, and have not gotten a lot of national attention from the networks.
Yuba-Sutter is back: The Marysville Gold Sox have announced that they are changing their name back to it's original name, the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox. The team operated under that name from its inception in 2002 until 2010, when then-owner Tom Lininger changed it, in part because people, even in California, have no idea what Yuba-Sutter means (the two counties that are home to Marysville and Yuba City respectively). The branding was changed back because ownership also ceased operations of the one-year only Yuba City Bears after the Great West League accepted a long-time collegiate club that plays in the Bay Area and calls themselves the San Francisco Seals. Earlier this off season, the Portland Pickles left the league and were replaced by the Klamath Falls Gems. The GWL has released their 2018 schedule with six teams—the Gold Sox, Seals, Gems, Chico Heat, Lincoln Potters, and Medford Rogues. Yuba-Sutter opens at Klamath Falls Tuesday May 29, and plays their first home game Friday June 1 against Medford.
He wants to play for the Dodgers: 27 year-old slugger and National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton will likely be traded this off season, and he has said publicly that the Dodgers are his preferred destination. The Dodgers don't seem to want him at the moment, though, because he is owed in the neighborhood of 250-million dollars, and while the team has that in their petty cash drawer, spending it would put the Dodgers over the luxury tax threshold, which is something Magic Johnson and company don't want to do. It would seem that a guy who hit .281 with 59 (yes 59) home runs and 132 RBIs last year, and has 267 homers in just 8 seasons in the big leagues (an average of 34.6 per year) wants to play for you, you make it happen.
A bit much?: According to a note from mlb.com, 1358 people played major league baseball this year. Doing the math ourselves, that means an average of over 45 players per team. We don't have numbers from previous years to compare, but considering a major league roster is 25 active at a time, and there is a 40-man roster kept all year, 45 seems like a lot. Trades are made, and players get hurt, but player movement, either up and down from the minors, or acquiring new players during the course of the year, seems at an all-time high.