Saban: No SEC team in CFP would be ‘disrespect’

NCAA Football

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Should Alabama upset No. 1 Georgia on Saturday in the SEC championship game, the conference could be on the outside looking in when the four College Football Playoff teams are selected Sunday.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said Thursday that it would “be a disrespect to the SEC if there isn’t an SEC representation in the (CFP).”

Speaking on the SEC championship game teleconference, Saban first said his focus was on Saturday’s game, but when pressed on the issue, he reiterated what he said on “The Pat McAfee Show” earlier Thursday: An SEC team should be in the playoff despite the Crimson Tide-Bulldogs outcome.

The SEC has won the past four national championships (Georgia twice, Alabama and LSU), and six of the nine titles overall during the CFP era. Twice, two SEC teams have played for the championship: Alabama beat Georgia for the 2017 title, and Georgia topped Alabama for the 2021 title.

“I think the SEC is one of the best conferences in the country,” Saban said. “I think Georgia is one of the best teams in the country. I think they’re one of the best four teams in the country. I think if we beat them, we’d be one of the best four teams in the country.”

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said he didn’t “want to get into it” when asked about the possibility of the SEC being left out of the playoff.

“I want to focus on what we have to do to win this game,” Smart said Thursday.

Naturally, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey believes the playoff should include at least one of the teams in Saturday’s title game in Atlanta based on the overall rigor of the conference schedule.

“Starting with the simple facts that there are three teams currently ranked in the top 10 with three or more wins over top 25 teams as the rankings currently exist,” Sankey said. “Two of those teams are Georgia and Alabama.”

Sankey also noted the unparalleled success of the SEC in the playoff.

“It’s envied by everyone else,” Sankey said. “We’ve lost the semifinal once to a nonconference team, to a nonconference team twice in the championship game. The only other losses we’ve experienced are to ourselves in the national championship game.

“The entirety of our record is a basis for the assurance that we will have a team in the CFP for the 10th consecutive year.”

The worst scenario for the SEC likely would be the fourth playoff spot coming down between a one-loss Alabama team and a one-loss Texas team, both conference champions, particularly with the Longhorns having beaten the Crimson Tide 34-24 in Tuscaloosa in Week 2. Texas plays Oklahoma State in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game.

“With teams, there’s a transformation that goes through the season,” Saban said. “How are you playing now? Where is your team now? How good are you now? I think all those things come into play.”

No team ranked lower than No. 6 in the penultimate CFP rankings has made the playoff.

Texas is No. 7 and Alabama No. 8 in this week’s rankings.

Ohio State is No. 6, but doesn’t play in a conference championship game this weekend after losing to Michigan last weekend. No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Oregon play Friday in the Pac-12 championship game.

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