Alabama 26, Georgia 23

You know, every national championship is special. Every one. All seventeen of them. But some are “more special” than others and the one on Monday night in Hotlanta may have been the most special of all. It was as improbable as it was unlikely. A game that needs to be watched again just to appreciate what happened. But in the end, what happened was that Alabama – a team devastated by injuries throughout the season, injuries that continued all the way through this very game, continued to persevere and overcome all obstacles to win. Amazing.

When we started this game, we said that there were three things that simply could not happen if the Tide were to win the championship. They were (in no particular order):

  1. We must not allow the Georgia defense to stop the run (forcing the Tide to depend upon Jalen’s arm).
  2. We must not miss scoring opportunities nor give up easy scores.
  3. We must be able to convert on third downs and prevent the Dawgs from converting on third downs.

If one of these happened, victory would be in serious jeopardy. So, what happened? All three.

Again, Alabama had trouble moving the ball on offense, converting third downs. Again, the Tide had trouble running the ball, as the G-Dawgs crowded the line of scrimmage, daring Jalen to complete a pass (any pass). And two big scoring opportunities were missed (Jalen overthrowing a wide open Calvin Ridley in the end zone and a missed field goal by Andy Poppanastos). All this led to being shut out in the first half and being behind the Dawgs, 13-0.

It looked hopeless and we ain’t kiddin.

But then Saban became Saban and pulled a Saban move that nobody but Saban would ever do – he pulled Jalen and replaced him with true freshman, Tua Tagovailoa. And Tua took over. Tua, who had not started a game all year; Tua who had not even played a single down in a critical situation all year; Tua was placed in a National Championship Game behind by thirteen points against one of the best defenses in the country. And Tua came through.

It was astonishing and marvelous. And more than once did we think it was hopeless. And yet, Tua came through in the end.

But Tua was not the only one. Let’s give thanks for the defensive effort in the second half (and especially in the fourth quarter). Over and over the defense stopped a powerful Georgia offense and another true freshman (Jake Fromm) who was having a career night. Over and over they gave the ball back to the offense so that the deficit could be made up.

And, it was. Though it should not have taken a heart-attack threatening overtime to do it. Andy P had a rough night. Missing his first field goal (after a procedure penalty) and then missing the potential game-winner with 3 seconds left in the game. But, at least, he made two critical field goals in between those misses.

Overtime went like the rest of this game. After the robot with glasses got Georgia the lead with a 51-yard field goal, the Tide took the field with one goal in mind – NOT leave the outcome of this game to the toe of Andy P. So, what did we do on the first play? Oh, thanks for asking! Tua dropped back, and dropped back, and dropped back some more until he was tackled 16 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Leaving the Tide with a second and 26 to go for a first down.

Call the undertaker. This one’s dead.

But like everything else in this game, just when you think the Tide is dead, somehow, they come back to life.

On the next play, Tua dropped back, looking to his right, then all of a sudden turns left and flings a 50 yard pass to a wide open Devonta Smith (true freshman) and, just like that, the game was over, Alabama had won, and confetti was falling all around. Amazing.

It wasn’t easy (are they ever – ok, except the one against Notre Lame) but the Tide won and garnered its 17th National Championship. But much more impressively, its 5th Natty in 9 years under Saban.

So, all you younguns, mark it down in your diaries – these are the “good ole days” that everyone will be talking about 50 years from now. It is an astonishing run.

But when you’re the Champs, this is what you do.

RTR!

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How sweet it is!

Number 17 in 2017.

RTR!

Let’s do it.

Not crazy about the design of this building – but it’s as good a place as any to win National Championship #17. Right?

Right.

RTR

CFP Championship game prediction: Alabama or Georgia?

Ok y’all, thanks to last Monday night’s victory, we have one more game left in the season – and, as we expected back in September, it’s gone be the Tide against the Dawgs (well, we didn’t expect to be playing the Dawgs, but we did expect to be where we are). So let’s break it down offensively, defensively, and special teams:

Offense: Georgia has the twin monsters (Chubb and Michel) at running back and they are outstanding. They also have a healthy offensive line (which the Tide does not). They also have a better passer at quarterback in Jake Fromm. But, if Fromm get pressure from the Tide defensive front, he’s clearly not as mobile as Jalen Hurts. So, whatcha get with with the arm, you lose with the legs. With the injuries to the Tide offensive line, we’re going to have the edge on offense to the Dawgs – Chubb and Michel are a load and the Jake Dawg has played well.

Defense: Once again the injury bug bit the Tide last Monday night – and this time it was Anfernee Jennings (after he had played his best game of the year). Anfernee’s absence weakens the linebacking corps (but what’s new?). We’ll give the edge to the Tide’s front four and the defensive backfield which, though not at full-strength, is close. Here again the key is being able to single-cover the Dawg receivers so that everybody else can concentrate on stopping the run. If the Tide can do that, it will be a huge advantage. Alabama gets the nod on defense.

Special teams: Punting? No contest. J. K. Scott has been our pick for the Tide MVP for the last two years. He’s a champ. Field goal kicking however is another story. Andy Pappanastos has struggled while the Dawg’s Rodrigo Blankenship has been a star (though surprisingly, Blankenship has only made one more field goal than Andy). In any case, we like the Rodrigo’s consistency and we think that he is enough to give the Dawgs the overall advantage in the kicking game.

Conclusion: Georgia has the better offense and kicking game, while Alabama has the slight edge on the defensive side of the ball. But you know what, the difference between these teams is so small that analysis is probably meaningless.

So. Who wins?

On paper these two teams are equal. There is very little difference between them. So everything will depend upon the intangibles. Who will be most ready to play? Will the stage be too big for the freshman, Jake Fromm? How will he respond to the pressure? Will Georgia be emotionally drained from their exciting victory over the Okies last Monday? Who’s most ready mentally? And, most importantly, who makes the key mistakes in the game? Last week it was Clemson. Who will get the easy points? Last week, it was Alabama.

So, again, who wins?

We think, given the circumstances and how this team has played all year, that in spite of everything, the Tide will find a way to win its 17th National Championship. There’s the situation, the setting, but when it gets down to it, it’s the . . . it’s just the vibe. Right? You feeling it too? The vibe says, Alabama wins.

We like the vibe.

RTR!

Alabama 24, Clemson 6

Well, we’ve been told over and over that “defense wins championships” – and now you know what that looks like. On Monday night, the Alabama defense came into the game on a mission – and that mission was to show the world that when they are healthy (or at least reasonably so) they can shut down, stop, quench, squelch, and otherwise obliterate an offense. Poor Clemson never had a chance.

It was a magnificent re-appearance of the defense that we all saw and loved in the Florida State game and never really saw again (apart from brief glimpses) the rest of the season because of the injuries to the defensive line and especially, the linebackers. But here we see Anfernee Jennings back along with Mack Wilson and others – and lo and behold, everything looked right and normal again! It was a glorious sight.

Poor Kelly Bryant looked about as good as a man who’s having to dodge heat-seeking missiles all night, can look. The loss certainly wasn’t his fault. In fact, the Clemson team as a whole did not play terribly – it was much more the case that the offense was simply overwhelmed by the flood of Bama defenders than that they played badly.

And the Orange defense played reasonably well also. The Tide’s offense again sputtered (and if you want to find some identity, it’d be a good idea for Bryan Dabol to get to a quiet spot and give some think-time to it). Every time it seemed that we might have something going offensively, Dabol dialed up pass plays that invariably fizzled and failed (sometimes because Jalen couldn’t get the ball to wide-open receivers and sometimes because the receivers couldn’t catch the ball). But thankfully, great offense was not needed on this night.

The game was won by the defense – and especially on two sterling plays. The first came with the game at 10-6 and the Tide looking befuddled on offense while Clemson seemed to be getting it together. Clemson was facing a second and two after they had driven in five plays to the Alabama 35. Anfernee hit Kelly Bryant’s passing arm and the ball fluttered into the waiting arms of Da’Ron Payne who ran it back 21 yards. A horse collar penalty added 15 yards to that and the Tide found itself in business at the Clemson 27. And from there, six plays later, Jalen found the same Da’Ron Payne standing by his big-ole self in the endzone for a 1 yard TD pass. And the game flipped.

The final blow came on the first play from the Tigers’ own 13 yard line, after the Tigers received the Bama kick. Bryant went back to pass. He was trying to hit Deon Cain, but instead Levi Wallace tipped the ball and Mack Wilson intercepted it and returned it for another Tide TD. And, just that quickly, with 5:35 left in the 3rd quarter, the game was over.

So, it’s an all-SEC final set for next Monday night in Hotlanta – i.e. everything is exactly like it should be. The only thing that can make all this better is if the Tide can do to the Dawgs what they just finished doing to Clemson. It ain’t gonna be easy – once again the Tide will go into a game short-handed. Anfernee Jennings unfortunately suffered another injury – sprained knee – and is questionable for the game. And he is joined by Lester Cotton (right guard) who also injured a knee. So, what’s new? It’s time to suck it up once more and get number 17.

Whaddaya say boys? Let’s go get it.

13 down and only one to go!

RTR!

So true

SEC Bowl Predictions

Well, it’s that time again – time to play “Let’s go bowling!” And this year the world’s greatest conference has 9 teams playing in bowls. We know y’all would feel naked watching these games without knowing which team was going to win so, we’ve pulled together our 2017-18 SEC Bowl Predictions (cause nobody likes feeling necked at this time of year, too cold!). And as usual, y’all get it all free of charge! Shoot, talk about Christmas gift!

December 27, 2017
The Texas Bowl–Missouri vs. Texas: Everthang starts tomorrow as Mizzou takes on the Shorthorns in the Texas Bowl in Houston. The M-Tigs had a wonnerful second half of the year (winning their last six in a row!) and now get the opportunity to take on the 6-6 Cows (who, coasted into the finish line with a 3-3 record, losing their last game to Texas Tech, hahahahahahaha). This might be a good game, but we don’t think so. We like Barry’s Boyz to keep on rollin, and we think they will. Mizzou goes out in style gaining their 8th win of the season.

December 29, 2017
The Belk Bowl–Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M: 
Well now we get to see if 75 million dollars can buy happiness (i.e. happiness for fans and administration). Whoa. Jimbo aka “Coach Moneybags” gets to watch his new team in the Department Store Bowl! The A&Mers had a rough finish (going 3-3 with losses to Miss St., Auburn, and LSU) so this game gives them an opportunity to turn the page and get a fresh start on 2018. Wake also finished up 3-3 (losses to Georgia Tech, Notre Lame, and Duke) – so they’re also trying to get the bad taste of losing out of their mouths. This could be a very close game and when it looks like it’s gone be close, go with the better athletes – and that means the Agony & Misery boys will win this one.

The Music City Bowl–Kentucky vs. Northwestern: The K-Kats were absolutely rollin the first half of the season (with a 5-1 record), but then November came and once again, they turned into the MildCats and dropped 4 of their last six games. Now they have to face some gen-u-wine Wildcats from Chicago (which, as we all know, are the worst kind of wildcats – the big city makes them sooo irritable). While Kenturkey was crawling to the finish line, Northwestern sprinted like an Olympic 100-meter champion. They come into this game riding a 7-game winning streak and hungry to extend that streak to 8. We’d love to see the Kats revive to their early season form – but we’d also love to see that Publishers’ Clearing House van drive up into our driveway. And, sorry to say, there’s more chance of that happening than there is of Kenturkey winning this game.

December 30, 2017
The Gator Bowl–Louisville vs. Mississippi State: 
The Alleygator Bowl features two teams that wish they could get a do-over on the season. The Birds started slowly and finished up a little less slowly (losing 3 of their first 6 and winning 4 of their last 5). The Cowbell Gang had an even worse finish, losing two of their last 3 and, as if that wasn’t enough, losing their quarterback to a bad injury. So, things didn’t go well this year for either one of these teams. But now, they have an opportunity to add a TaxSlayer Gator Bowl trophy to their trophy case and you can’t have any greater motivation than that can you? Well, maybe not having to eat Aunt Mytle’s “fancy Christmas” fruit cake would come close but we digress. Neither team has a distinct edge in this one and so, when that happens, you go with your bias – and we want the Bullies to win. Ring them bells!

January 1, 2018
The Outback Bowl–Michigan vs. South Carolina: 
Coach Crazy Eyes takes the Lamecocks down to Tampa to play the Hairballs. Two teams with identical 8-4 records playing in Florida in a game sponsored by a pretend Australian steak restaurant – what a country! The Wolverines lost the only games they played against half-way decent teams (Wisky and Ohio St). We do not trust any B1G team that loses to the only real football teams on their schedule – and we do not like Jim Hairball. So, the choice here is easy. We pick the Game Chicks and hope they win by at least 40 points.

The Peach Bowl–UCF vs. Auburn: This is a tough game to pick. Auburn was clearly the best team of November – finishing the regular season by winning their last five in a row (before losing to the G-Dawgs in the SEC Championship). And now they have to play the undefeated (12-0) Central Florida Knights in Atlanta. The Knights who have nothing to lose and everthing to prove. The Knights who will be FED UP hearing about the “powerful” SEC West Champions. The Knights who will be sick and tired of hearing why they should be underdogs in this game. And the Barners have to play this team while still being devastated about losing the SEC Championship and a shot at the CFP. Not good. But there is this: to UCF, “good defense” apparently means forcing the other team to use up more than 1:30 to score a touchdown. Even without Keryon Johnson, the Wargles would score 45 on this team. And the Knights will be lucky to score 21. Wargles win in spite of all.

The Citrus Bowl–Notre Dame vs. LSU: The Bayou Boyz were the “ComeBack Kids” this year as well. After their loss to Troy they stood at a dismal 3-2 with the meat of the SEC schedule staring them straight in the face. General Custer had better odds of seeing a good outcome than the Tigurs. But they responded by reeling off six victories in their last seven games to finish with a nice 9-3 record. And as a reward for all that work, they get to face the Golden Domers in DisneyWorld. Notre Lame looked like they had something (going 8-1 through their first 9 games) but then they lost to Miami by 33 (hahahahahahaha) and then to Stanford to end the year – and proved themselves to be the same ole Notre Lame we all know and love. Meanwhile, LSU is feeling goooooood – so good, we think they gone win this game and we hope it ain’t close.

The College Football Playoffs Semifinals: Now we come to the Big Boy games – the CFP Semifinal round hosted by the Rose and Sugar Bowls. This is for all the tacos and both games should be good ones.

The Rose Bowl–Oklahoma vs. Georgia: We like the fact that the Dawgs come into this one “on a mission.” That was the difference in the SEC Championship game and it may well be the difference in this one as well. Both teams come in sporting 12-1 records. The Covered Wagon Boys reeled off 8 wins in a row after losing to Iowa State in game #5 and the G-Dawgs won their last three after their loss to Auburn in game #10. The question for both teams is “Can your defense stop the other feller?” The Okies think they can (course they always think they can) – but we wonder about that (they haven’t faced a running game quite like that of the Dawgs). The G-Team is confident they can stop the Okies, but they haven’t faced a quarterback quite like the Baker. We think this one comes down to turnovers – who can hold on to the ball and not give up easy points. And when you put it that way, we think the answer is . . . Georgia. The Dawgs take care of bidness in Pasadena.

The Sugar Bowl–Alabama vs. Clemson: The other semi-final matchup has a familiar ring to it – Tigers – Tide III. Both teams come into this one with only one loss (Bama losing to Auburn and Clemson losing to Syracuse . . . . whaat???) but both losses can be explained (at least partially) by injuries. Clemson should be ok for this one but Alabama, for some reason, cannot get away from costly injuries –this time to Dylan Moses and Deionte Thompson – so, once again the Champs will go into a crucial game short of weapons. Two years ago the Tide took home the Natty by whipping the Tigers. Last year, the Tigers got revenge and took the Natty back by beating the Tide (on a last second illegal pick play – but we ain’t gonna bring that up). Now it’s the Tide’s turn to take back what belongs in T-Town – and y’all can look forward to exactly that happening on New Year’s evening. Alabama starts off 2018 just right – and we get to watch an all-SEC Championship game! (and then get to watch the Tide take home Natty #17!). It cain’t get better than this.

Ok y’all, there ya have it. And once again, all us here at the Fan International HQ hope that all y’all have a wonderful Christmas and a most happy and prosperous New Year. Don’t eat more than you can hold and cherish that ugly tie and pair of socks Aunt Minnie gives you – one day you’ll be able to tell some good stories about them. In fact, be sure y’all do yore best to enjoy these days – they ain’t gonna last forever and we’ll miss em when they gone. Let’s all pull for the SEC and hope that all our boys whip the Yankees (and the Westerners and all those other folks that wish they was SEC) and all y’all have a merry set of holidays!

RTR!