Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 27, 2018 at 9:43 pm.

Tagovailoa looks for more vs. Georgia

The first time Tua Tagovailoa played against Georgia, he came off the bench after halftime to lead an Alabama comeback that culminated in his 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime for a 26-23 win in the 2018 national championship game.

Round 2 is Saturday in the SEC title game.

No. 1 Alabama (12-0) seems like a good bet to make the four-team College Football Playoff, even with a loss to the No. 4 Bulldogs (11-1).

Tagovailoa remains the Heisman frontrunner, although Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is closing fast. He admits to being spoiled by the talent around him this season, as Alabama has already set school records for points (588) and passing yards (3,985).

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Tagovailoa said Monday. “I can go to the right and I can get a Snickers. I can go to the left and get some Skittles.”

Playing against Georgia won’t be like taking candy from a baby, although Tagovailoa said there is a familiarity on what the Bulldogs run. That comes from last season’s meeting as well as the crossover between coaching staffs, with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart being a former Alabama defensive coordinator.

“I think they’re a really good defense; they’re a really good team,” Tagovailoa said.

“But we’ve been facing them because of what our defense runs, and it’s very similar. It’s always going to be a challenge to go up against a team like this, but I don’t think it’ll be too big of a deal because we see a lot of it in practice.”

Georgia’s defense includes cornerback Deandre Baker, who is finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back. The Dawgs are 12th nationally in total defense (303.5 yards per game) and 10th in scoring defense (17.2 points).

Tagovailoa already has smashed school single-season records for touchdown passes (36) and touchdown responsibility (41).

Head coach Nick Saban said his offensive staff is using all its weapons in an attack that averages 49.0 points per game, second in the country.

“I would say they’re doing a really good job of utilizing the skill players that we have, whether it’s the runners, the receivers, tight ends,” Saban said. “That’s basically what you like to do on offense and hope that your system reflects that. I think the coaches have done a really good job of making sure that happens in a positive way for us.

“The challenge is to continue to do that against the next opponent.”