Nick Saban’s appearance at halftime of the Big Ten championship game Saturday night had all the pomp and circumstance of a breaking-news presidential address, with breathless promotion beforehand, deferential platitudes from Fox commentators, and a solemn atmosphere looming over it all as Saban made a last-minute campaign pitch for his Crimson Tide to join the College Football Playoff.
“I think the whole goal is to get the best teams in,” Saban said. “What I would say to the (College Football Playoff) committee or anyone else is if we played any of the teams that are on the edge of getting in, would we be the underdog, or would we be the favorite?”
Over the course of four minutes and 50 seconds, Saban threw everything possible at the wall, from Vegas spreads to margin of defeat to quality of opposition to end-of-season strength to Bryce Young’s injury.
It was a little bit savvy, a little bit pathetic. And it almost worked.
Had TCU lost in regular time, had the Horned Frogs suffered a double-digit margin of defeat, had Max Duggan not wept his way into the hearts of even the coldest college football zealots — Bama fans excepted, of course — Saban’s team might well be preparing to face Georgia one more time in the playoff. Instead, they’re headed to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl — a destination bowl for most teams, a frustrating what-could-have-been business trip for the Tide.