On Monday night January 8, 2018, millions of people watched the second most watched event on ESPN. It was the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia. The game scored a 16.7 Nielsen rating. The most watched event was the 2015 National Championship game between Ohio State and Oregon, which scored an 18.8 rating. That may be due to it being the very first College Football Playoff Championship game. It is somewhat surprising so many people tuned in to the game this year, considering it was a SEC Championship Game 2.0. You would think that people outside the southern region, would not be vested in the game.
However, we were all treated to one “H E double hockey sticks” of a game.
Alabama showed on the third play of the game, why the majority of people picked them to win the game. They picked off true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. It was a great throw but Bama’s cornerback Tony Brown just manhandled the pass away from Javon Wims. Georgia’s defense showed why they were one of the best in the nation by holding Bama to a potential 40-yard field goal. That’s when kicker, Andy Pappanastos, proceeded to miss it wide-left. You could see a deep sigh of relief from the Georgia faithful. Georgia goes unconventional on offense and puts the ball back into their young quarterback’s hands. They pass twice as many times as the run in the first quarter. Bama’s offense looked like it partied too much on Bourbon Street the week before. Both teams managed an incredible 0 points in the first quarter.
Georgia got their offense, and by offense, I mean running game going at the end of the first quarter. This led to an early second quarter field goal from 41 yards out. Bama again, couldn’t get anything going on offense, thanks in large part to Georgia’s defense. This led to another Georgia field goal, midway thru the quarter. With a little over a minute left in the half, Georgia drove down the field and scored the first touchdown of the game with seven seconds to go. Georgia took at 13-0 lead into halftime.
Georgia was 30 minutes away from their first national title since the game Pac-Man was invented, since The Persian Gulf War started, and since CNN was started. Yes, since 1980. Bama knew they had to make the proverbial second half adjustments. Adjustments they made! Nick Saban did the most unthinkable move imaginable; he benched his starting sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts. I thought the fix was in. You are only down 13 and you bench your quarterback who led you to back to back National Championship Games?! He put in the true freshman Tau Tagovailoa who hadn’t had a meaningful snap all year. The rest, they say, is history. Tagovailoa proceeds to spark the Bama offense and by virtue, the defense as well. He led Bama to their first touchdown of the game making it a one-possession game. Saban is looking like the greatest coach in college football again. Nevertheless, Georgia answers immediately with their own touchdown drive. Yes, Georgia is winning 20-7 with less than seven minutes to play in the third. The thoughts of the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl began to creep into the minds of the Georgia fans. They’ve seen this movie before, so nerves where still on edge. The Georgia defense relieved those when they intercepted Tagovailoa. Then Georgia turned the ball over on the very next play. Bama capitalized on the turnover and kicked a field goal.
Georgia is now 15 minutes away from their first title since “The Miracle on Ice”. They had a 20-10 lead and began trying to run the clock out. Bama’s defense wouldn’t let them as they held serve. Pappanastos connected from 30 yards out to make it a one-possession game once again. Georgia’s offense stalls and allows Tagovailoa to lead Bama down the field to tie the game with 3:49 left. Another three-and-out and Bama is going down the field to win the game. It’s three seconds on the clock and a simple 36-yard field goal to win the game for Pappanastos. It’s no way he can miss this. But wait, he does! Georgia is back in this as we head to overtime. Maybe the curse is not real. Maybe they are a team of destiny. Fromm was sacked but kicker Rodrigo Blankenship connected from 51 yards out keep their hopes alive. It looked extremely promising when Bama’s Tagovailoa acted like a true freshman. He took an unforgivable sack for a 16-yard loss on the first play in overtime. The way the kicker was missing field goals, Georgia could begin planning a parade in Athens. On the next play, Tagovailoa threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to win the game. What was impressive was his ability to look off the safety, like a senior quarterback, and make a perfect pass. Bama 26 Georgia 23 in overtime, a game for the ages.
It was Saban’s fifth title in nine years at Alabama. It was his sixth overall, tying him with Bear Bryant for the most all time in college football. It solidified Saban as the best coach in college football period, and one of the best in football. Now comes the questions of will he leave for the NFL again. He spent two years with Miami Dolphins going 15-17 before going to Alabama. Former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said that Saban would be extremely interested in one of the vacant head coaching positions currently in the NFL. He said, “There’s a job he covets and it just happens to be open. The Giants.” That remains to be seen in the next few weeks; however, we know Saban will enjoy this title and Bama’s 17th overall.