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Alabama favored to repeat as champs, Saban undecided on CFP expansion

Coach Nick Saban and Alabama players celebrate after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship for the third time Monday in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by Hans Deryk/UPI
Coach Nick Saban and Alabama players celebrate after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship for the third time Monday in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by Hans Deryk/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Alabama is favored to continue its dominant run and repeat as national champions next season, as other programs vie for an expanded College Football Playoff field. Coach Nick Saban says he is undecided about expansion.

Saban spoke on a video conference call Tuesday morning after the Crimson Tide beat Ohio State 52-24 in the College Football Playoff National Championship game Monday in Miami Gardens, Fla.

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Alabama has appeared in five of the last six title games and has won the four-team tournament three times.

Either Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State has appeared in the College Football Playoff finale every year since the tournament started before the 2014 season.

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That lack of parity has led to coaches, players and conferences to request expansion of the playoff field. An increased number of star players also have opted out of participation in non-CFP bowl games to protect their NFL Draft stock.

"I have mixed emotions about expansion," Saban said. "I always said way back when when we started this whole playoff thing, even when we started just having a two-team national championship game, that this would reflect poorly on players' interest in playing in bowl games.

"I think that's come to fruition with the number of guys that opt out and don't play."

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The tournament's management committee met to discuss expansion last year, but decided against the change.

"The year 2020 has been one of uncertainty and change, but we are not changing the playoff format," the committee said in a November news release.

Before the CFP-era, players needed bowl games outside of the national championship to increase their exposure to NFL teams. Saban said CFP expansion would further diminish the importance of other bowl games, and he doesn't know if an expanded tournament and other important bowl games can coexist.

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"One of the great things about college football is a lot of players got rewarded, got a lot of positive self-gratification for having a good season by being able to go to a bowl game," Saban said.

"There was a lot of interest in all those games, there were some great matchups. We have some great bowl partners in college football.

"Now that we have a playoff, even though it's four teams, all the attention goes to the playoff, and the importance of bowl games has been minimized with fans and players."

The committee conducts an annual review of the tournament's format. Critics of the current format have championed for an eight-team or 12-team tournament to decide a national champion.

Saban, who passed iconic coach Paul "Bear" Bryant on Monday for the most national titles in history, seven, has won a national championship in six of his last 12 seasons at Alabama. Alabama won three titles under Saban during the BCS era, before the College Football Playoff was instituted.

The Crimson Tide on Tuesday opened as the favorites on most sports betting websites to win the tournament again in 2022. Clemson and Ohio State have the next-best odds to win next year's national championship.

Alabama defeats Ohio State for college football championship

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban celebrates with offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood (L) and other players after a 52-24 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the NCAA National Championship football game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Monday. The win gave Saban his sixth national championship victory. Photo by Hans Deryk/UPI | License Photo

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