College: Alabama's Huge Football Championship Victory and The Story of a Freshman Hero

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Tua Tagovailoa. Photo--Twitter

Alabama's remarkable come from behind victory against Georgia in this year's College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T has become the story of a freshman who rose to the occasion --Tua Tagovailoa-- in a baptism under fire.

When Nick Saban the Alabama coach saw that his team was struggling to put points up against the red hot Georgia team he decided to bench his 
starting quarterback Jalen Hurts and insert the freshman quarterback Tagavailoa. Any betting person must have pulled his hair out at that point and given Alabama no chance of victory. It was a risky decision and of course Saban would have been derided had it backfired -- putting a freshman player into a high pressure game under the glare of millions of people on national television.

It was a bold decision. Even though Hurts had struggled in the first half and Alabama had fallen behind 13-0 to Georgia by half-time, his overall record was a very enviable 25 wins to only 2 losses. He is a quarterback who will one day perform great feats on the National Football League as a professional. But Alabama was down by almost two touchdowns and it's easy to see the calculations that went through coach Saban's mind. What if the second half started and Alabama yielded another score, even a field goal? It would mean the 'Tide would need to score at least three touchdowns to top Georgia. The way he had been moving the team before the half must have made it obvious to Saban that on another night, maybe such a feat was possible; but not on Monday.

So Saban made what is now being hailed as a gutsy call. But the call was not as gutsy as the performance of Tagovailoa himself, the freshman. The decision worked out remarkably well and Tagovailoa was able to lead Alabama back into the game with smart decision making and a couple of big monster throws for huge gains for the 'Tide.  He threw for three monster touchdowns. Tagovailoa ended up leading Alabama to a thrilling 26 to 23 victory in the national championship game on Monday.

Georgia had taken a three point lead in overtime. Alabama was in a deep hole with a second down and 26 situation. Maybe try to pick up 10 yards or 15 to make the third down meaningful? Play it safe, with a freshman quarter back who had not only gotten them back into the game when they had been trailing at halftime. Don't risk a turn over. Let the players get you close enough to get the field goal. Trade the three points. Maybe on Georgia's next drive Alabama's defense could wrest the football and get a turnover or block a kick. Prevent Georgia from scoring a field goal then when it's your possession, march down again and win the game on a field goal.

But that's not coach Saban had in mind. The big strike was authorized. Instead of 23 points a piece, it was suddenly 26-23 on the blink of an 
eye and the Crimson Tide were national champions.

Now during the off-season coach Saban will have to deal with another challenge. Even though Hurts struggled in the first half of the championship game, he's without question one of the best college quarterbacks in the country. So, will Hurts be the starting quarterback next season or has he now been displaced by Tagovailoa as the new starter? Given his tremendous skills it's unlikely Hurts could accept such a demotion and would likely transfer to another top program. He would be able to play for two more seasons after sitting out one. Ironically Hurts stock soared even after he was bench because of the classy manner in which he handled himself -- cheering his replacement and later saying the coaches had made the right decision.

The same logic applies for Tagovailoa. After his huge victory on the national stage it's unlikely that he'll accept a backup roll and would also probably transfer if he's not the starter.

What a sweet and bitter headache for Saban. Sweet that he has two superb quarterbacks. Bitter that one of them may end up going to 
another school.

Alabama will start off next season as the top ranked college team.

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