Alabama has been able to turn on the switch when it has been challenged, which wasn't a frequent occurrence this season. In fact, freshmen led the Tide in passing (Tagovailoa), rushing (Najee Harris), and receiving yards (Devonta Smith) with a fourth being 2nd in catches (Henry Ruggs III).
Tagovailoa played sparingly behind Hurts before entering Monday's game against Georgia in the second half to throw three touchdown passes and rally Alabama to a 26-23 victory in overtime.
The game is the second-most watched College Football Playoff game in the four seasons of the format's existence.
"Just look around this locker room and see all these guys that I've worked, slaved, won with, crying and hurting, that's just going to add fuel to the fire for next year", junior wide receiver Terry Godwin said.
It took late-game magic from Clemson's Deshaun Watson to vanquish the Crimson Tide in last season's quest. Their loss to Alabama was heartbreaking, but there were signs that pointed to a bright future for Georgia.
According to freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, making it to the title game "definitely sets the standard for Georgia football". "I've been coached by some of the greatest coaches, coach Saban and the rest of the coaching staff and I've played with some of the greatest players, including Ronnie, the last couple of years, I've done a whole lot". Preparation to this point has been the key.
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Alabama and Georgia put on a brilliant show for college football fans, a classic game that will give the sport a new standard to shoot for in the years to come.
This was the morning after the left-handed kid who will never have to buy a vowel, Tua Tagovailoa, had provided the best ending that any college football game like this one, with a title on the line, had ever seen. Kirby Smart has made a good program a great program, and even with the talent that is leaving, Georgia is loaded with great players and great prospects are coming in. "We got behind Georgia Tech like 14-0 or something, here in Atlanta playing in the Peach Bowl". I did not include a Pac-12 team in my top 10 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Tagovailoa hit Calvin Ridley on a 7-yard score to help complete a 13-point comeback.
Alabama would eventually tie the game, 20-20, and push the contest into overtime.
Nick Saban huddled Alabama's quarterbacks together at halftime and pulled the trigger on arguably the biggest gamble of his storied coaching career. So that leaves them with the opportunity to claim themselves Co-National Champs with Alabama. Defenses will still have limited tape on Tagovailoa even after the title game, but it will get more hard as the season progresses.