Nick Saban has created something truly special in Tuscaloosa. It's not every day that a team is beaten at home with less than a third of the college football season left to play and still has legitimate hopes to make a run at a national championship.
The Tide got rolled by Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday night, a 29-24 shocker that stunned the fans in crimson and white. But Alabama's path to the BCS title game is still very viable.
Saban's squad no longer has control over its destiny, but with two games remaining against FCS foe Western Carolina and 2-8 Auburn, not to mention a likely matchup with Georgia in the SEC Championship game, there is still hope in Tuscaloosa that the Tide can win a second consecutive national title.
Alabama is currently ranked No. 4 in the BCS Standings, slotted behind Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame. Those three teams are unbeaten, lending to the argument that if they all run the table, Alabama won't stand a chance.
There are a couple of flaws in that logic, the first being that Alabama is an SEC powerhouse. Love it or hate it, being a member of arguably the best conference in the nation has its merits. The SEC is a media darling and is home to some of the best sports fans in the country, and just because Alabama finishes 12-1 doesn't mean that it won't leapfrog an undefeated team.
In this case, that team would be Notre Dame, which despite a very tough schedule, hasn't felt the love in the polls. The Fighting Irish have a superb defense but lack the offensive firepower to put up the style points that the computers value so highly. If the Tide go on to beat Georgia by 30-plus points in the SEC championship game, there will certainly be some fans around the country calling for a rankings shakeup, which would include Alabama above an undefeated Irish squad.
Now, the chances of that happening are slim. But the fact that there's a chance means that Alabama still has just as much hope as any other team ranked above them. In addition, keep in mind that Notre Dame still has to play USC on the road. The Tide will certainly leapfrog into third if the Trojans pull off the upset.
Oregon still has tough games on the ledger, but the Ducks' style of play seems to lend itself to blowing out teams no matter how high they're ranked or how talented the opposition is. Kenjon Barner and Chip Kelly should be able to navigate through the Pac-12 to make a championship appearance. That's why Alabama's main concern should be Kansas State.
Bill Snyder's crew has an interesting conundrum on its hands (and so does Notre Dame, for that matter). Neither the Wildcats nor the Fighting Irish will participate in a conference championship game. This means that there is a greater chance for an undefeated season; it also means that there is more of a chance that the computers will be unimpressed by the lack of a more taxing body of work.
This, above all else, is the reason the Tide will win the national championship. Alabama should be able to beat Georgia by a significant margin. The Bulldogs don't match up well, and QB Aaron Murray will have fits trying to move the ball against a maligned by still very talented Tide defense.
It might be a bit of a long shot, but Alabama's presence and body of work in the SEC could be the difference between leaping into the No. 2 spot or hanging around on the outside. A big win in the conference championship game while Kansas State and Notre Dame have a week off could put the Tide in a great position to make a run to the title.
If anything, Alabama's pedigree as the No. 1 team for the majority of the season should sway voters and the computers. If that happens, a second straight title will be coming to Tuscaloosa.