ESPN Analyst Doubts Alabama Returning to the College Football Playoff in 2023

Getty Alabama's Nick Saban

It’s been a tough year for Alabama, who have lost two games through the first three quarters of the regular season and likely will not qualify for the College Football Playoff for just the second time since the four-team postseason system was implemented in 2014. And ESPN’s Alex Scarborough predicted next year might not be any better given the number of players whom Alabama will lose to the NFL draft.

“Crimson Tide fans will want nothing less than to get back to the playoff next season, but is that even possible?” Scarborough asked. “[Quarterback Bryce] Young, [linebacker Will] Anderson, and a handful of NFL draft hopefuls are likely to move on. And staff departures seem likely.”

Scarborough also explained how Alabama can return to glory. “To get back on top, Alabama must recapture what made it so successful over the past decade-plus: being a team that not only refused to beat itself, but a team that prided itself on going beyond beating opponents and making them quit,” he wrote.

Analyst Blames Alabama Coordinators

It could be tough to look ahead and have confidence in the Crimson Tide considering that their high school recruiting dominance hasn’t translated to on-field success and that, according to ESPN’s Paul Finebaum, the program’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Bill O’Brien and Pete Golding, respectively, are not performing as they should.

“You can look for a lot of blame, but I don’t like these coordinators,” Finebaum said, according to a November 7 story by’s Mark Hein. “I’m in shock that Nick Saban has put up with this. I know fans love to blame the coordinators and not Nick Saban, but ultimately, he’s in charge. It was his decision (to keep these coordinators). Maybe the bigger problem some of these offensive play calls are stupefying.”

Appearing November 7 on ESPN’s “Get Up,” Finebaum called this season the “worst coaching job that Nick Saban has done at Alabama in 15 years,” saying he’s been out-coached four times, including in the team’s losses to LSU and Tennessee.

“If I can fault Nick Saban for anything, it is for allowing these coordinators to remain,” Finebaum said, according to

Saban on the Effect of NIL on College Football

Even as analysts predict a regression, the emergence of running back Jahmyr Gibbs and left tackle Tyler Steen has shown the transfer portal could be a trajectory-changing resource.

And few programs have made the transfer portal work to their advantage like Saban has, according to an April story in Sports Illustrated.

But Saban questioned whether the transfer portal is detrimental to the sport’s long-term viability.

“I don’t think what we’re doing right now is a sustainable model,” he told the Associated Press’ Ralph D. Russo.

Saban has advocated for player rights when it comes to the freedom to switch schools via the transfer portal, but he said he did not like the idea of swaying college students away with off-field perks.

“The concept of name, image and likeness was for players to be able to use their name, image and likeness to create opportunities for themselves,” Saban said, “That’s what it was. So last year on our team, our guys probably made as much or more than anybody in the country.”

“But that creates a situation where you can basically buy players,” Saban continued. “You can do it in recruiting. I mean, if that’s what we want college football to be, I don’t know. And you can also get players to get in the transfer portal to see if they can get more someplace else than they can get at your place.”

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