Cleat Geeks

Now Can We Say Saban Is The Best Current College Football Coach?

For the 5th time in 9 seasons, the Alabama Crimson Tide are the kings of the College Football world. The 4th ranked CFB Playoff team in the Alabama Crimson Tide overcame a lot of obstacles this season to get to this highly prestigious match-up against the 3rd ranked CFB playoff team in the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs started off in dominating fashion against the Tide as they went into halftime with a 13-0 score. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban continues to build his legacy as he made the proper adjustments and motivation to account for 20 points in the 2nd half and held Georgia to 7 points in the 2nd half. Even when Alabama missed the chance to win the game in the final seconds in regulation, the Tide still took the 26-23 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime.Image result for andy pappanastos alabama

Despite the 1st half struggles from offense and defense, the position switch at Quarterback, and the two missed field goals from K Andy Pappanastos (including the kick that could’ve won the game in regulation), the Alabama Crimson Tide found a way to win in another classic in the National Championship game. A lot will be said about the Alabama Crimson Tide and who was the deciding factor. Head Coach Nick Saban suggests that this game was a complete performance from all his players on his team. There were multiple players that stood out to get the Tide to another championship but it impossible to give the glory to one player. Many factors went into this game to give the Crimson Tide their 17th overall National Championship as a program and 12th in poll era.


Nick Saban makes bold move to switch to true Freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa

Alabama knew they would have difficulty facing the 4th ranked scoring defense (13.2 points allowed per game) in the Georgia Bulldogs. In the beginning, Nick Saban and Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll would need QB Jalen Hurts to beat the Bulldogs defense with his legs. In the first half, the Tide offense did not find much success with Hurts as the playmaker as he only accounted for 3 completions (out of 8 attempts) for 21 yards as well as 47 rushing yards on 6 carries (longest run was 31 yards). Alabama only accounted for 94 total yards on offense in the 1st half against the Bulldogs defense. What made Jalen great was his ability to escape pressure and account for more yards with his legs, but this did not work well with the Georgia defense spreading out in pressure and blitzes.

There were rumblings of rumors that true Freshman Tua Tagovailoa that would be playing in much-needed games. When Alabama went into halftime with a 13-0 deficit with no production coming from the offense, Nick Saban made a big decision to put the strong-armed, left-handed true Freshman in Tua Tagovailoa in at Quarterback. Tua was escaping pressure and surveying the field in routes and coverages more quickly than Hurts. In the 2nd half, Tua led the Tide’s offense to longer and more efficient drives. Tua passed for 166 yards on 14 completions (out of 24 attempts) for 3 touchdowns and an interception. He accounted for a 149.4 passer rating.

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Tua was excellent in his passing to his Receivers and keeping the Defensive Backs away from the ball. His passes to WR Henry Ruggs III in the 3rd quarter and WR Calvin Ridley with 3:49 left in the game was thrown with great patience and excellent precision. Even when Tua made “freshman mistakes,” especially in the Tide’s 1st play in overtime by taking a 16-yard sack, he shook it off. What happened next will be remembered for a long-time in College Football. Tua looks right of the field for Ridley but quickly turns his head when Bulldogs CB Malkom Parish makes a mistake and lets Tide WR DeVonta Smith get inside where Tua throws a perfectly executed game-winning 41-yard touchdown to Smith. This resulted in the 26-23 Crimson Tide victory over the Georgia Bulldogs when the Tide’s offense was revived by a true freshman Quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa, his Receiver that stepped up and created more separation, and an injured-filled Offensive Line that stood their ground. Tua finished the game as the game offensive MVP.


Despite Georgia’s aggressive defense, Alabama overcomes flaws and succeeds

Much of the talk will be how Tua came in and lead an almost impossible comeback against the 4th ranked scoring defense of the Georgia Bulldogs. There were more obstacles for the Tide’s offense than an inefficient game from QB Jalen Hurts. The Offensive Line had problems with creating consistent running opportunities for the Running Backs. In the first half, the Tide only accounted for 94 total yards but only 19 yards came from Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough on 6 total carries. The Tide also accounted for 4 first downs. The Tide’s O-Line allowed 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss in the 1st half but the overall fact for the Tide’s offense was that they would not run over the Bulldogs defense led by LB Roquan Smith.

Even though the Tide’s O-Line allowed 3 sacks and 4 more tackles for loss, the Line held their ground with more solid blocking. Even when star OT Jonah Williams went down with an injury, freshman OT Alex Leatherwood came in and was solid. The first drive without Jonah, the Tide finally got on the board with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tua to WR Henry Ruggs III.

The Tide’s run-game did pick up in the 2nd half due to the explosive playmaking of freshman RB Najee Harris. In the 1st half, the Tide accounted for 73 rushing yards and then finished with 184 rushing yards. RB Damien Harris finished with 64 rushing yards on 6 carries and more impact in the receiving game. Each of the Receivers in the passing game did a better job of creating separation in their routes to catch the ball against the opposing Georgia Defensive Backs. Overall, the Tide’s offense accounted for 371 total yards with 277 yards coming from the 2nd half and overtime. The Tide also accounted 16 first downs and finished with an average of 5.2 yards per play.


Alabama’s defense was stout once again

When talking about an Alabama defense, Nick Saban is usually at the helm of it. For the previous 4 National Championship title with Saban as the Head Coach of Alabama, Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart was his Defensive Coordinator. With Pruitt as the Defensive Coordinator, the Tide have inserted more Outside Linebackers to line up at the line of scrimmage for better blitz opportunities. Against the Georgia Bulldogs, the Tide was successful in creating pressure and accounting for sacks on Georgia QB Jake Fromm. Terrell Lewis, a Linebacker who had been injured all season since week 1, was a huge impact on the Tide defense on his pressures and blitzes.

Image result for da’ron payne alabamaThe Crimson Tide was also very successful in primarily shutting down the run game of Georgia, mostly at the line of scrimmage. Much like the Tide’s offense, their defense encountered some problems adjusting to the Bulldogs’ offense and allowed 13 points by allowing big plays in the passing game and not adjusting well to the wildcat formation. The Bulldogs offense accounted for 223 total yards of offense in the 1st half with QB Jake Fromm throwing for 126 yards, RB Sony Michel rushing for 61 yards (on 8 carries), and WR Riley Ridley accounting for 62 yards on 4 receptions.

Alabama in the 2nd half, however, held the Bulldogs offense to 365 total yards on offense with 142 yards coming from the 2nd half. Mack Wilson was the field general/star-playmaking Linebacker that the Tide needed to be for them to have match the intensity of the Bulldogs offense. Wilson was the Tide’s leading tackler with 12 total tackles, 7 solo tackles, and 2 tackles for loss. Weakside Linebacker Rashaan Evans accounted for 8 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Strongside Linebacker Terrell Lewis accounted for 7 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 sack on Jake Fromm in overtime that set up only a field goal. NG Da’Ron Payne had the biggest responsibility for the Tide’s defense by clogging the holes at the line of scrimmage against the talented Georgia Running Backs of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Payne accounted for 6 total tackles and was voted the game defensive MVP. The Georgia offense accounted for 133 rushing yards and averaged 3 yards per rush against this aggressive Defensive Line and Linebacker corp.

Is Nick Saban The Best Current College Coach?

Once again, on the biggest stage in college football, Nick Saban was able to once again pull all the right strings at all the right times to overcome adversity and gain victory. Saban guided his team to yet another title, and just getting to that spot is difficult.

Some might say they did not deserve to be in the top 4 teams to start with. That says a lot for his scheduling. You may not like who they play, especially in non-conference, but for the 5th time in a 9 year the committee has seen them as one of the top teams in college football weather it was computer rankings or a group of people in a room.

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The Saban coaching tree has many roots and even more branches. We don’t have the space to list all the people who are still coaching that have ties to Saban. But, we do have room to say that he is the constant in Alabama and they have been consistently in the upper echelon of college football while he has been at the helm.

Lastly, he is not mired in controversy on or off the field, and for the most part, neither are many of his players. He is a leader and a winner. Doesn’t those two qualities alone make you the best? But if you are not convinced, he has a hand full of rings, and a mantel full of accolades.

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