SOME TIDE FANS OPTED FOR IN-STATE LOYALTY IN HOPES FOR PLAYOFF SPOT

The College Football Playoff selection committee determines that not only does a team need to play well, but the plight of other teams can benefit those who had an imperfect season. Such is the case with the Alabama Crimson Tide, whose 9-1 record received its first hit of the regular season, knocking the Tide out of the CFP top four.

With Alabama’s loss to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 19 it dropped the team to No. 5 in the CFP rankings, just on the outside looking into the playoffs. But, if Alabama can keep its loss count to one for the rest of the season, paired with other games indirectly working in Alabama’s favor, there is still some hope for the championship for Tide fans.

Hence why Alabama fans paid extra attention to a few choice games yesterday, even trading in their signature “Roll Tide” cheers for two words that were likely difficult to utter out loud: “War Eagle.”

As the No. 12 Auburn Tigers took on No. 4 Georgia yesterday, Alabama fans were banking on a victory for their friends across the state. If Auburn had secured a win, the Bulldogs could have fallen from their top-four spot in the CFP rankings, potentially leaving an opening for Alabama to move up in the rankings.

Auburn gave a nail-biting fourth-quarter comeback performance, narrowing a 21-0 deficit to 21-14 with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Pinson, Alabama native Bo Nix fought to the bitter end, completing 30 of 50 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. While he rushed for 42 yards, Nix fumbled twice in the game, losing one.

Traditionally, Auburn works best as a ground team, but despite a 3-yard touchdown from Nix, junior linebacker and Madison, Alabama native Monty Rice led the Bulldogs defense with eight tackles, slowing the Auburn offense and forcing Nix’s career-high passing game with 50 attempts. Nix did tie his career high for completions, having only completed 30 passes once more, one week prior against Ole Miss. Whether that means the passing game is being forced or that Auburn offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham is trusting Nix to take to the air more, the Tigers are in new territory with a less-than-reliable ground game.

Bulldogs junior quarterback Jake Fromm, a Warner Robins, Georgia native, went 13 of 28, throwing all three of Georgia’s touchdowns. Georgia has the third-ranked rushing defense in the country, averaging 75.5 yards per game on the ground. Nix’s one rushing touchdown is the only rushing touchdown that the Bulldogs have given up this season. But, compared to Auburn’s 26th-ranked rushing offense, the Georgia defense did its job stymying the Tigers to meager yardage and forced fourth-down punt returns, giving the Bulldogs’ offense great field position to score.

Junior running back D’Andre Swift championed Georgia’s rushing game, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Auburn’s top three rushing leaders were Nix (3.2 average), freshman running back D.J. Williams (3.3) and sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow (2.1).

But, the Tigers were unable to score a third time before the ball turned back over to Georgia, where Fromm took a knee to run the clock out, securing the Bulldog victory. Even with Georgia’s 21-14 win, some fans believe that there is still a good chance that Alabama will get the coveted playoff spot.

“Eventually Georgia and LSU are going to play in the SEC Championship,” Alabama fan John McGinn told WVUA 23’s Jordan Johnson. “One team is going to lose and I don’t think it’s going to be LSU, so I think that locks us into the final four and into the playoffs.”

To follow McGinn’s projected trajectory, if Georgia meets with LSU in the SEC Championship and loses, the Crimson Tide could have a shot at securing the No. 4 spot. That is, if Alabama’s last two games of the regular season end in victory. With junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa out for the rest of the season on a season-ending hip injury sustained in this weekend’s game against Mississippi State, redshirt sophomore Mac Jones will need to carry the weight of the dynasty against Western Carolina and a very young, healthy Auburn team.

Alabama has made the CFP every year since its inception in 2014. Throughout the playoff’s history, Alabama has won the national championship game twice after losing a single game in the regular season.

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