Sunday, December 2, 2018

The 2018 Alabama Crimson Tide football season is a storybook still being written

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I knew the Georgia Bulldogs would be a real test for Alabama. I just didn’t expect it to be an essay exam. Kirby Smart had a nearly perfect game plan for an Alabama offense led by Tua Tagovailoa. But for the second time in two years, he had no good answer for a backup QB coming in and snatching a sure win away from him. Just like the 2018 Championship Game last January, the entry of the backup signal caller completely changed the texture and flow of the game and just like last time, Alabama snatched the glory at the very end.

Give Georgia their due, because they were clearly the better team until the QB change. That’s the way it was last year. I agree with Coach Smart—Alabama would not want to have to play them again. Not this season, anyway. I still think they’re one of the four best teams in the country right now, two losses or not.

Rightly or wrongly, Smart will never live down that fateful, failed fake punt on 4th and 11. At midfield. With the game tied at 28. With 3:04 left in the to play in regulation. Jalen Hurts—who this season swallowed both pride and ego to accept the backup role in the year of the transfer QB—promptly led the team down the field. He took the ball the last 15 yards and scored the winning TD on the ground.

imageTruth be told, Georgia’s defense was gassed and probably couldn’t have stopped a fresh Jalen, the best offensive line on the SEC, three bowling balls for running backs and the best receiver corps in the country. Bama was going to score. Kirby just made it easier for Hurts to get it done.

This has been an amazing season. En route to an undefeated regular season, Alabama beat all of its opponents by 20 or more points. That has never happened in the history of a game we now recognize as “college football.” (Forget the 1888 Yale reference; it doesn’t count when you can’t throw the football).

At 13-0, Alabama is the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. It is Alabama’s 5th appearance in the Top Four. That’s never happened before. The No. 1 seed has never gone on to win both playoff games and claim the title, either.

Alabama will face No. 4 seed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on December 29. The last time Alabama and Oklahoma faced each other in the Orange Bowl, Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant’s Crimson Tide shut out Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners by a score of 17-0. Alabama has not beaten Oklahoma since, going 0-3-1.

Alabama has never had a Heisman Trophy winning QB. That looks almost certain to change next Saturday, as Tagovailoa looks like a lock to claim college football’s highest individual honor. This is despite the parade of great QB’s in Alabama history. Bart Starr. Joe Namath. Kenny Stabler. Richard Todd. Jay Barker. Greg McElroy. AJ McCarron.

Alabama has won back-to-back national titles before. In fact, it’s happened four times: 1925 & 1926; 1964 & 1965. 1978 & 1979. 2011 & 2012.

The 2011-2012 teams won back-to-back titles in the BCS era, something no one had done before. If Alabama wins out by beating Oklahoma and the winner of No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame, it will claim back-to-back 2017 and 2018 national titles in the College Football Playoff era. That’s never been done before, either.

Given all of this never-been-done-before backdrop, you just can’t escape the sense that this season is extra special for a football program that is already storied and, dare we say blessed? Each of the four teams in the Playoff have won multiple titles. It’s impossible to recount the history of this game without including reverent references to Alabama, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. And hey, Clemson’s been in the Top Four now four times, losing twice to Alabama and beating them once. Their head coach is Alabama grad Dabo Swinney, who wears a national championship ring he won as part of Bama’s 1992 squad.

Alabama has lost to Notre Dame for a title and beaten them for one, too.

Oh, Oklahoma has seven titles, including back-to-back crowns in 1955 & 1956. This is storybook stuff. This is end-of-days stuff, y’all. 

Since (almost, I think) no one reading this will have to prepare for Oklahoma, we can look ahead. We don’t have to take it one game at a time. We can fully expect to see Alabama beat a very good 12-1 Oklahoma Sooners team, and then square off against either an undefeated Notre Dame in a rematch of the 2013 BCS Championship Game or another undefeated Clemson for the fourth straight time in the College Football Playoff. And as Bama fans, we expect this storybook to end with the Tide winning it all and everyone living happily ever after. 

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