Georgia holds the recruiting momentum, but Alabama employs The Man. The Bulldogs have the promise of a power on the rise, but the Crimson Tide own the tenacity of a program that has reached the top because of the face who wills trophies to appear.
That’s why Alabama will enjoy more success than Georgia in the next five years. It’s impossible to overlook the Nick Saban Factor after the Crimson Tide’s thrilling 26-23 overtime victory in the National Championship Game on Monday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. His coaching genius is either a delight or dark magic, depending upon which colors you wear on fall Saturdays.
No matter which side of a budding Georgia-Alabama power struggle you reside, you can’t argue this: Saban’s mastery is a sight to behold.
Likely, Monday was only the start. That’s great news for SEC fans and bad news for blood pressure readings in Athens and Tuscaloosa. Georgia and Alabama should meet again in the coming years at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with high stakes in conference title games. Dramatic days should unfold.
Yet who doubts Alabama’s ability to break more Bulldog hearts?
Why should anyone bet against the Crimson Tide’s chances of ending red-and-black parties with more haunting renditions of Rammer Jammer as Alabama fans roar?
It all comes down to this simple fact: The Crimson Tide have Saban, and no one else does.
The developments Monday deserve a special place in the coach’s legacy. Frankly, Georgia fielded the more complete team in the title game. The Bulldogs proved it early in earning a 13-0 halftime lead. Georgia’s aggressive defense made Brian Daboll’s offense look like molasses. Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts was as effective as a shopping cart missing four wheels.
However, Saban made the necessary switch to freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the second half. From now on, “miracle” in Tuscaloosa will be spelled “T-U-A.” The young player wasn’t without his shaky moments before finishing with 166 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. But he made his coach look like the sideline Mensa he is when confetti dropped from Atlanta’s modern marvel.
For Saban, national title No. 6 should be extra sweet.
For Georgia fans, the result should serve as a warning that more pain from the SEC’s top power could be on the way.
Oh, the Bulldogs will continue to produce headlines. They won’t go away under coach Kirby Smart. It’s easy to argue they were ahead of schedule with an SEC title this fall, and no true threats reside within the SEC East heading into next season. (Florida? Tennessee? Please.)
After all, quarterback Jake Fromm should improve after he worked wonders as a freshman following Jacob Eason’s left knee injury in the season opener. The defense will continue to adopt a “junkyard dawg” mentality. Top recruits such as quarterback Justin Fields and running back Zamir White, offensive tackle Cade Mays and guard Jamaree Salyer, defensive end Brenton Cox and cornerback Nadab Joseph will make an impact. The future is bright.
It wouldn’t surprise to see Georgia break through soon and claim its first national title since 1980. But think twice before doubting Alabama’s ability win more in the next half decade. As Monday showed, the Saban Factor can make the Crimson Tide’s fortunes turn from messy to marvelous faster than a dart in the red zone from Tagovailoa’s left arm. At times, you can only stand in awe.
That’s what Monday was about: Appreciating Saban’s awesome ability to push, pull and pry his team to victory through a pit of mud. The process wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright gross most of the night. But the result was as sparkling as the coach’s five previous national titles.
No one in the SEC, not even rising Georgia, has an answer for the incredible force that made Alabama college football’s best once more.
No one else is Saban.