Welcome to the eighth and final edition of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes from Atlanta, Georgia, where I just saw the Alabama Crimson Tide take home the 2018 CFP National Championship in one of the most unbelievable games I’ve ever seen. It was an insane night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so let’s break down what happened.
If you boycotted the College Football Playoff National Championship this year because it was an all-SEC affair, then you got what you deserved. Alabama’s 26-23 victory in overtime over Georgia was a college football classic unlike any other, full of twists, turns, and plenty of drama. As an Alabama fan, I’m ecstatic. Georgia completely dominated the first half, and the Crimson Tide looked out of sorts. But when true freshman Tua Tagovailoa hit DeVonta Smith for a 41-yard bomb to when the game, I couldn’t believe it.
Best game I’ve ever witnessed. Happiest I’ve ever been. #RollTide until I die. NATIONAL CHAMPS ONCE AGAIN.
— Gray Robertson (@gray_robertson) January 9, 2018
As a fan of college football, I was transfixed. Seriously, the way this game unfolded will go down in college football lore, and it will do so because Nick Saban made a decision that I didn’t think he’d make.
In the first half, Jalen Hurts looked lost trying to throw the football, going 3-8 for only 21 yards. Twitter wanted true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, but I didn’t think Saban would pull the trigger on Hurts, who had only lost two games in two years as a starter.
Whether you want him to or not, SHOULD Tua Tagovailoa play in this game? #NationalChampionship
— Gray Robertson (@gray_robertson) January 9, 2018
Nick Saban did it, though, and that decision paid off as Tagovailoa provided a spark to a team that was dead to rights.
Tua’s ability to throw downfield allowed the Tide’s running game, which had been shutdown in the first half, to open up in the second. Najee Harris provided a nice spark with his fresh legs too, running for 64 huge yards on six carries. The defense also stepped up big in the second stanza as well. Other than an 80-yard touchdown pass from Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm to Mecole Hardman, the Bulldogs only managed 62 yards on offense.
For Georgia, you have to feel for a program that was desperate to end a long national championship drought. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney got a bit too conservative in the second half though, as Georgia went away from throwing the football and tried to hard not to lose the game instead of trying to win. Still, The Hangover would be foolish to not thank Nick Chubb and Sony Michel for providing years of fantastic highlights throughout their careers for the Bulldogs. I have no doubt that they’ll make an impact at the next level.
All in all, the Crimson Tide shook off one of the worst halves in the Nick Saban era and delivered one of the best halves in that same time span. And that performance in the final two quarters and overtime game Alabama its 17th National Championship and one of the most thrilling championship games in college football history.
Gray’s Final 2017-2018 Top 10
- Ohio State
- Penn State
The year wraps up with the SEC controlling the top two spots in my Top Ten. Alabama and Georgia were clearly the two best teams in the country this season, and the classic they played just a few hours ago further cemented that. Oklahoma and Clemson round out the top four, and both of those teams will be back in contention next season (more on that below). The rest of the Top 10 just fills in as you’d expect after the way bowl season finished out. As you can see, I have UCF in the eight spot. No, Knights, that doesn’t mean you win the National Championship. Although, thanks for the inspiration, because I’m going ahead and claiming a National Championship for Alabama basketball this season.
Gray’s Way-Too-Early 2018-2019 Top 10
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Notice something about these rankings for next season? They look a lot like the final rankings for this year. Alabama is going to be stacked again this year, especially with Tagovailoa now slinging for Nick Saban’s squad. Georgia will be back too.
Until the last few drives, Jake Fromm played spectacularly in Atlanta as well. The Dawgs are losing talent, especially on defense, but with a fantastic recruiting class coming in, this team will be hungry (and, spoiler alert, they’re going to be my preseason national title pick). Ohio State will reload as well, and they’ll be just as motivated next year after just missing the CFP this season. Clemson probably brings back sixteen starters, and Kelly Bryant will only get better. Oklahoma’s positioning solely depends on how well Kyler Murray plays at quarterback next year, but I have a feeling that the Sooners will be around. Washington has Jake Browning and nine returning defensive starters, so they’ll be up at the top of the rankings once again. A young Miami team will challenge Clemson again in the ACC, but we’ll have to see if a Mark Richt team can make the jump to the College Football Playoff. Michigan is out of excuses, and I think it should be Big Ten Championship or bust for Jim Harbaugh. With Shea Patterson and a ferocious defense, these Wolverines will contend. Penn State’s offense will be effective once again with Trace McSorley, and Auburn will be right up at the top once again with Jarrett Stidham (if Stidham can figure out how to play away from Jordan-Hare). Next year will be another fantastic season, and I’m sure a team not included on this list will make a move. Right now, though, I think it’ll be the same teams as this year contending next season.
This year in Random Rankings, we’ve discussed food, movies, and TV. We’ll close with something sports related. In my life, I’ve had the lucky opportunity to visit lots of amazing stadiums around the country for college football and college basketball events. Here are my rankings of my Top 5 Stadium venues. This takes into account accessibility, food and food prices, ticket/entry lines, and more. No explanations this week. *Usual Disclaimer*: Once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. So if you like NRG Stadium and think it’s spectacular, sorry. I’m very stubborn.
- Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, LA)
- AT&T Stadium (Arlington, TX)
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, GA)
- Georgia Dome (Atlanta, GA)
- Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)
Gray Goes Off
The debate is over.
Nick Saban is the greatest coach in college football history, and the Crimson Tide’s win over Georgia cemented that fact. The numbers are impressive–six national championships, tying Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most ever. But let’s dig deeper in Saban as a motivator and decision-maker. In two of the last three national championship games, Nick has made two ruthless decisions that he knew he had to make in order to win. In the 2016 CFP Championship with the score knotted up at 24 with Clemson, Saban called for an onside kick. That gamble paid off, as the Tide recovered and went on to score a touchdown on the drive. Monday night, Saban made a similar kind of gamble by putting in Tua Tagovailoa. Both decisions were go-for-broke choices that could’ve cost Alabama the game, but because they worked, Saban is a genius. Moves like that, plus his credentials, show why Nick Saban is the greatest coach in the history of college football.
SEC Power Rankings
With the season finished, it’s time to look ahead at how the SEC will stack up next season. The SEC West will be a juggernaut once again. The SEC East will improve, but it’s still a level or two below the other side. Here are my way-too-early predictions for the 2018-2019 season in the Southeastern Conference.
- Mississippi State
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
Who’s Ready for Next Season?
So what do we do now? College basketball is in full swing, but there’s nothing like college football, and the wait for next year will be long and painful. When the new season dawns, though, we have some UNBELIEVABLE match-ups on Labor Day weekend. Here’s what we have to look forward to:
Alabama vs. Louisville (Orlando, FL)
Michigan at Notre Dame
Auburn vs. Washington (Atlanta, GA)
LSU vs. Miami (Arlington, TX)
Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma (and I’ll go ahead and pick the Owls right now)
Virginia Tech at Florida State
Tennessee vs. West Virginia (Charlotte)
I can’t wait for next season, and I know you can’t either. Thanks for reading along with The Hangover this year. Stay tuned for some college basketball content soon, as I’ll put out some Bubble Watches, Bracketologys, and more.