Sports Today: Fallout from the national championship game, Saban’s decision and more 


So Alabama had a national championship-caliber quarterback in the bullpen all along? 

I guess now we know how the College Football Playoff committee concluded the Crimson Tide were better than anyone else who had a claim to that fourth spot in their tournament. 

If they would have just told us that on decision day in December, it could have saved them a lot of grief, but maybe Nick Saban swore them to secrecy. 

RELATED: Who is Tua Tagovailoa? 5 things to know about Alabama’s freshman QB

Kudos to Georgia for making the Alabama coach go to the lefty, something no one else in the SEC could do — even rival Auburn, who might be more justified raising an SEC co-championship banner than UCF is claiming itself the national champion since the Tigers beat both of the league’s division champions. 

The CFP title game (which the Crimson Tide won 26-23 in overtime) was a thriller. A great game between two quality college football teams full of young talent. 

Saban’s decision to pull Jalen Hurts in favor of Tua Tagovailoa at halftime with his team down 13-0 was masterful. 

A gamble, for sure, but one worth taking considering his offense had four first downs and four punts in the first half and had really not been anything to write home about all season. 

It not only led to his team scoring 26 points after halftime but headed off a pretty nasty narrative for the SEC and CFP. 

With Hurts at quarterback, Alabama had an offense that was powerful but not dynamic. The variable of the quarterback run game left the Tide a step or two away from being a service academy with bigger, faster players. (So like Ohio State before Urban Meyer became so obsessed with vanity he flushed half the run game in favor of a futile attempt to develop the passing attack, but I digress…) 

Georgia’s offense wasn’t anything to write home about, either, but it looked like being able to pass a little would be enough for the Bulldogs to claim the title. 

A Georgia win — especially a decisive one — would have made it easy to say the whole season was a kind of a waste of time, that Alabama — and the team it thrashed in the semifinal, defending national champion Clemson — was nothing special all year and the committee really failed in giving the Crimson Tide the benefit of the doubt over two-loss conference champions. 

On second look, Clemson had an even less impressive offense than Alabama, but the Tigers at least beat three top 20 teams before the bowls and won their conference. 

So regardless of how it turned out, the final four was problematic because it was a combination of “most deserving” and “best,” which opens the door to missing someone from either group (if not both). 

I don’t think that’s going to be workable going forward. 

The committee really needs to commit to picking the most deserving or the best. It’s not going to get it right often enough trying to do both… 

Of course, they aren’t going to make such a commitment anyway. The committee will continue to fly by the seat of its pants and make decisions that don’t make sense to a lot of people, partisan and nonpartisan alike. 

Will a preference for “best” or “most deserving” more serve Ohio State in 2018? 

I’m gonna have to get back to you on that. 

The Buckeyes should not be lacking for quality wins with TCU, Penn State, Michigan State (all away from home) and Michigan on the docket. Their first look at Purdue under Jeff Brohm and Nebraska under Scott Frost could be interesting, too, though those teams will still be outgunned from a talent standpoint. 

But what if they lose one of those first four I mentioned and slip up against someone in the second tier again, as happened at Iowa last fall? 

Well, maybe it’s as simple as, you know, staying within 30 points? We shall see… 

Saban’s decision to switch quarterbacks also placed an elephant in many Ohio State rooms: What would Urban Meyer have done in the same situation? 

He had a young quarterback (Dwayne Haskins) who was a better thrower on his bench all year but stuck with J.T. Barrett as long as his captain was able to walk, so it was natural to wonder. 

First off, Meyer would not have made the swap, though his decision wouldn’t have been the same as Saban’s, either. 

As a senior who has put up bigger numbers through the air, Barrett has more equity than Hurts. 

Meyer stuck with Barrett in a big hole against Penn State this season, and Barrett threw the Buckeyes out of it. 

He also played a major role in the disaster at Iowa, throwing the game-opening pick-six and a terrible interception late in the second quarter that set up another score. 

Should Meyer have made a move at halftime in Iowa City? 

Well, again, Barrett had that Penn State rally under his belt by then so wasn’t it fair to think he could pull off some more magic? 

Of course, that didn’t happen. As great as Barrett was at times, he also had some struggles. That’s forever going to be his story at Ohio State. 

But anyway I more blame Meyer and his offensive staffs of the past three years for continually putting Barrett and the offense in position to fail by being predictable and robotic in their game-planning and play-calling. 

RELATED: Ohio State football and the disappearing tailback runs

As much as Barrett accomplished in scarlet and gray, he was more Craig Krenzel than Vince Young, and nobody on the coaching staff ever seemed to figure that out… 

But hey, if you want to talk quarterback changes… the Tagovailoa effect was something like I wanted to see if Marvin Lewis pulled Andy Dalton at some point last season. 

A.J. McCarron —ironically an Alabama national championship quarterback — might not be as much of a physical changeup as the Hawaiian freshman was for Hurts, but he might have injected some life into a Cincinnati team that badly needed it most of the season. 

RELATED: Who were the best Bengals this season?

It was easy to see in the first half last night Alabama was limited in what it could do, and there wasn’t a lot of hope that was going to change unless they could break the dam with all those powerful running backs. A double-digit deficit limited the time the Tide had to do that, so Saban made a move. 

Not only did Tagovailoa come in throwing darts (and making a few mistakes), the whole team appeared energized by it. 

Maybe McCarron, who seems to have a personality about 10 times larger than Dalton’s, could have done the same for Cincinnati in, say, week three instead of the team waiting until Week 16 to show some signs of life when it had nothing to lose. 


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