Alabama Football: On predictions, certainty and upsets in CFB

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

There are few certainties in college football. Since 2009, one of them is every season Alabama Football will be a national championship contender. That will be the case in 2023 as well, with Alabama, despite a demanding schedule, being as capable as any team to win it all. And that includes the Georgia Bulldogs, though the Dawgs basically have a one-game regular season obstacle to the Playoff.

Going into the 2023 college football season, it is good for fans to remember that even the best prognosticators are wrong many times. Some Alabama football fans see the season as potentially rocky for the Crimson Tide. Of course, in Tuscaloosa ‘rocky’ means a season with more than one loss.

Media sources put considerable effort and even more hype into their algorithms. The best known is the ESPN FPI.  Optimistic Crimson Tide fans like that the FPI gives Alabama winning probabilities of 76.1% to 99% in its regular season games. Apparently, the algorithm does not allow a 100% prediction, so Alabama games against MTSU and Chattanooga are 99%.

It is natural for fans to prefer certainty that conforms to what we want to believe. It is not unreasonable to believe the Crimson Tide could be 12-0 headed to Atlanta. If in its toughest games, Alabama does a good job of not beating itself, 12-0 is achievable.

The flip side of any quest for regular-season perfection is there will be upsets. Vegas oddsmakers and every algorithm will be seriously wrong on some games in every season. Last season the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State went to Miami as a 25.5-point underdog to the Hurricanes. MTSU won 45-31.

There were other shocking results. In November, New Mexico State, having gone 5-21 in its three previous seasons, went to Liberty as a 24-point dog. They beat Hugh Freeze’s team 49-14. Georgia Southern went to Lincoln last season as a 23-point underdog to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ defense surrendered 642 yards of offense as Georgia Southern won 45-42.

The biggest bust for a favored SEC team last season came in College Station. Texas A&M was favored by 18 points against a decent Appalachian State team. As Robert Munoz pointed out for Hero Sports, not only did the Aggies lose, they did so by failing to score as many points as the predicted point margin.

"App State controlled the game and the clock, running 82 plays to the Aggies’ 38 and winning the time of possession 41:29 to 18:31."

Note: Game data provided by Sports Reference

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The point is the most unlikely of upsets can happen in college football and no team, not Alabama, Georgia or any other top contender is invulnerable.