No. 5 Alabama's playoff hopes end with 48-45 loss to No. 15 Auburn

A missed field goal doomed Alabama against Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Again.

It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the Kick Six in 2013, but Joseph Bulovas’ 30-yard field goal attempt that slammed off the upright helped give the No. 15 Tigers a 48-45 upset win over the No. 5 Crimson Tide to ensure that Alabama won’t be going to the College Football Playoff for the first time.

How the game-tying field goal missed. (via CBS)
How the game-tying field goal missed. (via CBS)

Alabama (10-2, 6-2) stopped Auburn on its ensuing possession but the Crimson Tide had 12 men on the field on fourth down as Auburn (9-3, 5-3) was running out the clock. The penalty gave the Tigers a first down and effectively ended the game.

The Alabama defense was confused when Auburn offense took the field on fourth down. Eleven players lined up near the line of scrimmage while a returner was back to field a potential punt.

It was a minor miracle that Alabama was still in the game when Bulovas’ kick went up with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Alabama QB Mac Jones, starting in place of the injured Tua Tagovailoa, threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. One of them accounted for a 12-point swing in the third quarter when Zakoby McClain took a pass intended for Najee Harris 100 yards for a TD and a 37-31 Auburn lead.

Jaylen Waddle was a big reason why Alabama was still in the contest. Waddle scored four touchdowns, including one on a 98-yard kickoff return. That return came immediately after Jones’ first pick-six. That interception, returned 29 yards for a TD by Smoke Monday, gave Auburn a 17-10 lead that lasted less than 20 seconds.

The Crimson Tide had made the playoff field in each of the first five seasons of the format after it was implemented in 2014. And, even more impressively, Alabama had made the last four national championship games. That’s not happening this year.

Alabama defensive back Xavier McKinney (15) loses his helmet as Auburn running back Shaun Shivers (8) runs through him for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Alabama defensive back Xavier McKinney (15) loses his helmet as Auburn running back Shaun Shivers (8) runs through him for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Auburn got a field goal under controversial circumstances

The Tigers got the gift of three points as the second quarter ended and Alabama led 31-24. The Tigers ran a screen with eight seconds left and no timeouts that gained 15 yards to the Alabama 34. But Boobee Whitlow went down in bounds as officials initially ruled that the clock had expired.

It had not. Whitlow went down with a second remaining. And here’s where it gets crazy. Had the clock originally stopped with one second to go, Auburn wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get its field goal unit on the field before the ball was reset and ready for play after the first down and the clock restarted or the chance to spike the ball with its offense.

Per NCAA rules, two seconds have to remain on the clock after a first down for a team to spike the ball.

But since replay was summoned to put a second back on the clock and play didn’t continue naturally, Auburn rushed its field goal team out onto the field with the hopes of a clock change. That happened. Officials put one second back on the clock. And Auburn snapped the ball as soon as it was ready for play and Carlson drained a 52-yard field goal to cut Alabama’s lead to 31-27 and make Nick Saban very unhappy.

The SEC’s playoff possibilities: LSU and Georgia

Alabama will likely end up somewhere in the range of Nos. 8-10 during Tuesday’s set of College Football Playoff rankings and Utah and Oklahoma — assuming wins by both teams on Saturday night — will move up to Nos. 5 and 6 in some order.

That paves the way for the playoff to include four teams from four different conferences if LSU beats Georgia in the SEC championship game. And with LSU, Ohio State and Clemson looking like very good bets to make the playoff in that scenario, the final spot could come down to a comparison of potential 12-1 Utah and 12-1 Oklahoma.

The odds of Alabama making the playoff with a win over Auburn were always slim because the Tide were locked out of the SEC championship game. But that slim possibility is now nonexistent. The Tide will now likely go to the Cotton Bowl or the Sugar Bowl.

Bo Nix accounts for two scores

Auburn’s freshman QB didn’t have a glamorous game. But unlike Jones, he didn’t turn it over. Nix was 15-of-30 passing for 173 yards and a touchdown and had six carries for 44 rushing yards and a TD.

He was 3-of-3 passing and had 27 rushing yards on what turned out to be Auburn’s game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. The drive culminated with an epic 11-yard touchdown run by Shaun Shivers to give the Tigers a 46-45 lead and a two-point pass from Nix to Shedrick Jackson pushed the score to 48-45.

The eight minutes remaining seemed like plenty of time for Alabama to score. And the Tide looked well-positioned after a drive that took over six minutes. But Auburn DL Derrick Brown took over as Alabama got closer and closer to the end zone and the Tide were forced to settle for Bulovas’ kick.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports

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