SEC INSIDER

High Tide: Bama’s dominance not likely to end soon

The Sports Xchange

January 09, 2018 at 4:29 pm.

Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) throws the game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver DeVonta Smith (not pictured) in overtime against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) throws the game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver DeVonta Smith (not pictured) in overtime against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You love Alabama. You hate Alabama. You love to hate Alabama.

Whatever the case, get ready for a whole lot more of Alabama, Alabama, Alabama.

The Crimson Tide have won five of the past nine national championships, all under coach Nick Saban, and Alabama is, quite logically, going to be No. 1 on all the ridiculously, insanely, way-too-early predictions for the 2018 season.

And this particular new, huge wave of Alabama talent is just getting started.

Just when it seemed like Georgia would send the Tide to their second consecutive loss in a national title game on Monday night, Saban reached his hand through the grave and unleashed a new fury on the college football world: a freshman phenom quarterback and his fierce pack of classmates.

Summoned at halftime, freshman Tua Tagovailoa, the backup to can’t-quite-throw-it-well-enough Jalen Hurts, became an instant legend. As soon as he is of age, he won’t ever have to buy his own adult beverage in Tuscaloosa.

He led the Tide back from a 13-0 halftime deficit and a 20-7 hole in the third quarter, spinning out of tackles, firing lasers, buying time, picking up first downs to give the Alabama defense the rest it needed after facing 47 plays in the first half.

But it wasn’t just Tagovailoa.

Alex Leatherwood stood in at left tackle after true sophomore Jonah Williams went down. Henry Ruggs III caught a 6-yard touchdown pass. Najee Harris leapfrogged juniors Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough to take critical fourth-quarter handoffs, leading the team with 64 yards on six carries. Jerry Jeudy had a 20-yard reception.

And DeVonta Smith, after Tagovailoa looked off the safety to create air space, snatched an over-the-shoulder ball for the game-winning, 41-yard reception in the 26-23 overtime victory.

All freshmen.

“This was, I think, one of our best recruiting classes, this freshman class from last year, especially with offensive talent,” Saban said in the postgame press conference.

“So that’s something we have to build on in this year’s recruiting and continue to build on because we’re going to lose a lot of good players who are seniors, probably have several players go out for the draft. So our team turns over a little quicker, so it creates a lot of opportunity for younger players to get a chance to play, and those guys play a lot this year and contribute a lot to our success.”

Alabama will lose its usual stud seniors, including linebacker Rashaan Evans, center Bradley Bozeman, defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand and both starting cornerbacks, as well as multiple early-entry juniors, presumably defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne and receiver Calvin Ridley among them.

Big deal.

The Tide have been dealing with that kind of stuff for the past decade. Hasn’t mattered. Heading into this recruiting cycle, Saban greedily compiled seven consecutive top-rated recruiting classes.

Get this: The Tide first elevated to No. 1 under Saban after their ninth game in the 2008 season. Since then, the Tide have played 129 games and were ranked in the top spot in 62 of them. Do the math: In the past nine-plus seasons, Alabama has been No. 1 in 48.1 percent of its games.

At 66 years old, Saban shows no signs of slowing down, ready to take on what figures to be challenges from many of the same suspects in 2018 — Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State.

Is there an end to this?

“I’ve said this for many, many years now when I get asked this question,” Saban said Tuesday.

“I’ve been part of a team since I was 9 years old. Hard for me to imagine what it would be like not being a part of a team. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the players. I enjoy the relationships that you have on a team.

“There’s a lot of positive self-gratification for me to see these guys have success, not just on the field, but as people, as students, as players, to see them go on and be successful with their careers.

“So these are things that I know that I cannot do forever, but they’re certainly things that I have enjoyed and hope I can continue to enjoy in the future.”

 

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