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Since the College Football Playoff taken over the landscape in 2014, we have seen 3 great college football games for national championships. Yes, there will ALWAYS be controversy with who gets in as we’ve seen in 2014, 2016, and this year. However, save for maybe last year when the controversial pick Ohio State made the Playoff and laid a giant egg against Clemson, the committee has gotten it right for the most part. Yeah, people in Ohio State will feel “butt-hurt” they got chosen over by Alabama, but now Ohio State will feel the same way their Big Ten rival Penn State felt. And also, don’t give up 55 to Iowa and lose by 31. But anyway…..
The game of course was an all SEC game, which the theory was for the playoff to eliminate the whole two teams from one conference playing for all the marbles. And thus irritating the masses outside of the Southeast region. Now, I will be the first to admit I am biased because I am an Alabama fan living in Georgia so the game was nearly a national holiday in the state (heck, schools and government buildings were closed on Monday because of a “threat of ice,” so it did feel that way. Welcome to Georgia).
And if you are a football fan and you didn’t watch it because you either hate Alabama and/or the SEC, well………..1. You may need to revoke your football fan card. And 2. You missed a great game. The first national championship game in the Playoff era and the 2nd national title game that ended in an overtime. Yes, the Bama dynasty came through on a great comeback by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa after Jalen Hurts struggled as he hit a beautiful pass to DeVonta Smith to win the game for the Tide.
THIS WAS NICK SABAN’S BEST JOB AS A HEAD COACH IN ALABAMA: Yes, say what you want about over-recruiting 4-5 star guys every year at every position. But even Alabama, who had struggled greatly with injuries to the offensive line and linebackers all year used guys who were not those 4-5 star guys or just not ready players. At times, it showed, whether it was “tune up games” against Fresno State or Colorado State, Mississippi State, or Auburn. And honestly, because of it, it may have been one of Alabama’s “weaker” teams in this 9 year run. The pass rush wasn’t as strong, the running game really didn’t get going and the offense was stagnant at times. But he and his staff held it together. Even in this game, where Georgia really dominated 3 of the 4 quarters, Saban showed how great he was by making the QB change. Now the great debate will be, is Saban the best college head coach ever? It’s very possible.
JALEN HURTS LOST ALL CONFIDENCE AND WAS COMPLETELY FIGURED OUT: Well, he had been that way since the Auburn game. The issue is this and I mentioned it to my buddy last night Hurts will do one of 4 options. 1. The smallest sign of a rush he runs. 2. The smallest sign of a rush he runs right and throws it away. 3. The minute Calvin Ridley is covered, he runs and throws it away and 4. The minute Calvin Ridley is covered, he runs. To be fair however, I don’t think Brian Daboll did him any favors when he pretty much focused him too much into the gameplan and not enough on the Harris boys or Bo Scarbrough.
JALEN HURTS IS A CLASS ACT: He didn’t sulk or pout on the sideline. He was there when Tua got in and was doing great, supporting him and encouraging him every step of the way. After the game when they interviewed him, he came off genuinely happy the Tide won. He may not have felt too happy but for as much as he struggled, he still got the Tide to the title game.
TUA TAGOVAILOA’S ABILITY TO PASS THE BALL MAY BE ANOTHER DIMENSION TO ALABAMA THAT HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE: Despite the national titles in the past decade, the Tide has and always will be a run-oriented team. Yes, the quarterbacks of Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron, Blake Sims, Jake Coker, and Hurts all did their thing to win games and even McCarron got some Heisman consideration in 2013, but none of them were just flat out deadly throwing the ball like Tua can. Tua, who has drawn comparisons to Marcus Mariota when he was at Oregon, can really make Alabama a far more deadly offense to go with a stout running game when used properly and a top notch defense.
THE DEFENSIVE LINE CAME ON STRONG IN THE PLAYOFF: First Clemson, where they went after the Tigers on every play and made life miserable on Kelly Bryant and had a big moment from Da’Shawn Hand with a huge interception and then how the Tide played in the 2nd half against the Bulldogs showed why they were still a force, despite all the losses they had from last year’s crew that was just one of the best Alabama ever had. Of course, a lot of rest and returns from injury helped, but still. I was impressed on how they came on.
ALABAMA DID TO GEORGIA WHAT CLEMSON DID TO ALABAMA LAST YEAR: The 2nd half was mostly Alabama and kept the Bulldogs defense out on the field for too long. Were the Dawgs gassed? Not entirely, but they were worn out just enough to really push the Bulldogs defensive line around and miss more than a few key tackles.
WAS THE LOSS ON THE COACHING STAFF? NOT REALLY: Aside from the typical fans who scream “butt-hurt” from the poor officiating that kept Georgia from winning (and there were some shoddy calls I admit), most of the knowledgeable Georgia fans believe that Kirby Smart and Jim Chaney went too conservative in the 4th quarter of being unable to put the game away. My take is, you’re danged if you do, danged if you don’t. I have a different take is that after Jake Fromm threw that interception to Raekwon Davis where he got hit in the process and it deflected off a lineman was Fromm was not the same. The confidence wasn’t there and he missed a few key passes. Kirby and Chaney were somewhat in a bind in my eyes. And the more the game went, the more it showed that Fromm wasn’t the same cool and poised Fromm from the previous games. Not saying “blame Fromm entirely,” because he was what the Dawgs needed this year at QB as Jacob Eason didn’t fit into what Kirby wanted. That said, the lack of using Sony Michel late, notably in overtime, you CAN blame that on Smart and Chaney.
KIRBY SMART HAS TO TONE IT DOWN A LITTLE BIT: We also have to know that Kirby is only in his second year of being a head coach on any level and spent most of his years being an assistant. As we have noticed, most assistant coaches are far more energetic and “rah rah” than the head coaches. His sideline penalty on the Bulldogs where he may have been a little too excited about it, but he has got to be more chill. I get Georgia fans love that about him, but at some point the rah rah stuff gets old quickly and when (or if) the team loses, it can be more of a headache. But as a Georgia friend of mine says, “winning cures all…” But I think he needs to cool off a bit.
SONY MICHEL WAS WITHOUT QUESTION GEORGIA’S MVP OF THE GAME: 14 carries, 98 yards. Unfortunately, Kirby nor Chaney used his hot hand. And honestly it was dumbfounding why he didn’t get more carries. He really stung the Tide, even in the 2nd half.
THE BULLDOGS NEEDED 27 POINTS: I said it from the 3rd quarter after their big TD pass was Georgia needed 27 to win the game. And they didn’t get it. Back to the “did they play too conservative or too cute” bit? Possible.
GEORGIA SHOULD HAVE WON THIS GAME: I said 24-17 Bulldogs as my prediction to start. I just thought from top to bottom UGA was far more well-rounded on offense and not too far off defensively and the kicking game was worlds ahead of Alabama. Adding on, the Tide nearly imploded on the sideline, which was very un-Alabama-like. Georgia played far more poised, cool, collected and save for the 2nd Fromm INT and under-using Michel, they did not make many mistakes. It was really Tua that took the Bulldogs off-guard.
ANOTHER STINGING BLOW FOR THE STATE OF GEORGIA: Up 20-7 midway in the third. Have Bama on 4th down late in the game. Bama misses kick to send to overtime. Kick 52-yard FG, sacked Tua for loss of 16 yards in OT. And you lose….in your backyard. This one stings for Bulldog fans and those who are also Falcon fans who had to endure the pain of the 28-3 Super Bowl talk last year. And then you had those years of Braves October collapses. Even hope that Georgia Tech in 2004 would win the basketball national title fell flat, badly. It’s hard to be a fan in the state of Georgia and hope that one of the teams will be on top of the mountain at season’s end. However, Georgia has a talented roster of 4 to 5-star recruits now that could make this a small step back. But then again, how often have we seen the likes of Florida State, LSU, and Ohio State have top draft classes? To be fair, they did win the national titles in the past 10 years. But save for LSU, Florida State and Ohio State don’t have to deal with their conference who also gets top classes year in and year out.
That’s it on a wonderful college football season. Ready for late August!
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat