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Saban, Alabama and a Deserved Championship

January 8th, 2018 · No Comments · College football, Football

So, that’s why Nick Saban is such a big deal. A big enough deal to be getting paid more than $11 million by the University of Alabama in 2017.

His Alabama team was down 13-0 to Georgia at halftime of the College Football Playoff championship game tonight, and instead of persevering with sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, who started all but one game over two seasons but had been erratic, Saban made the bold decision to turn to freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa.

Alabama rallied from the 13-0 hole, and also a 20-10 deficit going into the fourth quarter to win 26-23 in overtime on a 41-yard touchdown strike by Tagovailoa.

The chatter around Saban is that, sure, he annually recruits several of the best players in the nation — but watch his teams play and the impartial observer must concede he also is out-coaching most¬† everyone he encounters.

Which is how the man has led college teams to six national championships — five of them (in nine seasons) at Alabama.

Among his other key decisions made during a frenetic game late Monday night in Atlanta:

–Loading up against the Georgia running game in the second half and daring Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm to beat back the Tide. Fromm burned Saban & Co. with one 80-yard catch-and-run, but in the fourth quarter Fromm broke down, looking both confused and under siege from a heavy pass rush, and deployed as a slot receiver in a bizarre formation that yielded nothing in three tries.

–Identifying as a Georgia weak link the cornerback Lorenzo Carter, who rarely got help from a safety and was burned repeatedly by the strong-armed Tagovailoa, including on a catch-plus-penalty that gave Alabama a chance to win on the last play of the fourth quarter and the 41-yard streak route that led to DeVonta Smith scoring the winning touchdown in overtime.

–Twice calling timeout from the sideline when the talented but still green Tagovailoa was having trouble getting the offense set with the playclock ticking down.

–Building a team that could survive the shock of its kicker missing a 34-yard field goal on the last play of regulation, as well as a second-and-26 in overtime.

–Coaching up a freshman QB who on the winning play turned his head to his right, influencing the Georgia safety to move in that direction.¬† before Tagovailoa made a 90-degree turn and threw the decisive strike in OT over Georgia’s chasing cornerback — who expected help from the misdirected safety.

Alabama recruited better (the MVP quarterback comes from Hawaii), blocked better, tackled better and, from everything I could see, coached better — both in terms of game-planning and adapting on the fly.

Saban & Co. tonight arrived with a team made of players from 22 states and the District of Columbia, and despite Georgia’s fine start Saban’s guys took control of the game in the final quarter.

To a lot of people — including me, at times — is a bit tired of Saban and his say-nothing platitudes, as well as his school winning all the time. (Alabama is 125-14 since 2008.)

But we must give the devil his due. He has created and maintained the best program in the country since 2009, winning five national titles. Even at football-mad Alabama, that isn’t easy.

 

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