Alabama Football: Latest polls only explained by ‘Bama Fatigue’

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

According to today’s rules of sports journalism (a label that may have outlived its value), opinion drives content. In that context, Alabama football fans and others who honestly ponder what teams are college football’s best might want to remember that traditional polls are opinions and nothing more.

It is the opinion of most AP and Coaches Poll voters that the Alabama Crimson Tide is college football’s 8th-best team. Alabama football fans disagree. One reason we take exception to such a conclusion is we know how much ‘Alabama Fatigue’ there is in the college football world.

A few years ago I met a retired high school football coach and lifetime Ohio State fan. I had a lengthy and thoroughly enjoyable conversation with the gentleman. We agreed on many things. Our only significant difference of opinion was about Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. He loved Meyer and hated Saban. I explained my opinion was the opposite of his. We talked about why and all his complaints about Saban were about the man and not the coach.

We agreed to disagree. If only other disputes in life were so simple. I suspect more than a few AP and Coaches Polls voters have a similar response to Nick Saban and Alabama Football. They lose objectivity due to a struggle to get past their hate of Saban and the Crimson Tide. Politely, we call the response ‘Alabama Fatigue’ but its reservoir is deeper than tiredness.

Counter Data from not Alabama Football fans

Debate from someone who sees the college football world through crimson-tinted lenses is pointless.

What can be worthwhile is analytical data. No team’s win-loss record can be valued absent of the context of its Strength of Schedule (SOS). Three sources are used for an SOS comparison; the ESPN FPIJeff Sagarin’s Ratings and SportSource Analytics, the data analysis software used by the CFB Playoff Selection Committee.

The nine remaining Playoff contenders are listed below with each team’s SOS as measured by each algorithm.

ESPN FPI SOS (numbers are the ranking of all 133 FBS teams)

  • Texas – No. 9 SOS
  • Alabama – No. 28 SOS
  • Washington – No. 35 SOS
  • Ohio State – No. 45 SOS
  • Michigan – No. 59 SOS
  • Florida State – No. 62 SOS
  • Oregon – No. 63 SOS
  • Georgia – No. 65 SOS
  • Louisville – No. 74 SOS

Sagarin Ratings SOS

  • Texas – No. 2 SOS
  • Alabama – No. 24 SOS
  • Washington – No. 25 SOS
  • Ohio State – No. 47 SOS
  • Oregon – No. 57 SOS
  • Georgia – No. 61 SOS
  • Michigan – No. 63 SOS
  • Louisville – No. 64 SOS
  • Florida State – No. 68 SOS

SportSource Analytics SOS

  • Alabama – No. 4 SOS
  • Texas – No. 6 SOS
  • Ohio State – No. 31 SOS
  • Florida State – No. 33 SOS
  • Washington – No. 37 SOS
  • Michigan – No. 44 SOS
  • Louisville – No. 60 SOS
  • Oregon – No. 62 SOS
  • Georgia – No. 76 SOS

Ignoring the analytics, there appears to be widespread belief the winner of the Ohio State vs. Michigan game is a Playoff lock. The SOS rankings indicate that should not be the case. It is also difficult to reconcile the high Playoff rankings for Florida State and Oregon, based on their SOS rankings.

Next. Early start to Iron Bowl Week. dark

Based on the data, it seems fair to conclude that should three teams win out, only they ought to be Playoff locks. The three are Texas, Alabama and Georgia.