Sugar Bowl proves Alabama belonged in CFP all along
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It was easy to argue a month ago that Ohio State deserved to be ranked ahead of Alabama, but the Crimson Tide squashed that notion Monday.

The list of critics was long, and even included Clemson's Dabo Swinney, who ranked the Buckeyes fourth and Crimson Tide fifth in the last coaches poll of 2017.

Maybe he was simply angling for a more favorable semifinal matchup - Clemson pummeled Ohio State in the semis last season - but still, Swinney's vote didn't seem egregious.

Alabama's regular season wasn't pretty. Nick Saban's squad didn't defeat a single team that ended the campaign ranked in the top 15 of the CFP poll.

Alabama also didn't win its conference - a criterion Saban once declared should determine who gets into the playoff.

If those two factors weren't damning enough, there was also the fact the team looked far from dominant late in the season. It required fourth-quarter heroics to fend off Mississippi State in November and lost to Auburn two weeks later to wrap up the schedule.

Rest assured, though, the Tide is still rolling. The waves it produced in the Sugar Bowl against No. 1 Clemson were as large as they've been all season.

In retrospect, beating Florida State 24-7 in the season opener didn't tell us much about Alabama, but dethroning Clemson 24-6 on New Year's Day sure as heck did. It told us Alabama, even with its flaws, deserved all the accolades it received from the media and in the polls throughout the season, and that it deserved the chance to compete for a national title.

Sugar Bowl proves Alabama belonged in CFP all along
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