The Tide Also Rises: Tua, Saban and Tebow
Two lefty quarterbacks with alliterative names and a penchant for evangelism walk into a…ah, who am I kidding? Tua Tagovailoa is no joke. During this week, in which Bama is idle, the college football universe can continue to tout Tua as the steamrolling, defense-shredding savant that he is.
This is a guy who has zero interceptions through eight games (!), a guy who has yet to play in the fourth quarter of a game this season (!!), and a guy who became a legend as a freshman, leading Alabama to a rousing comeback to steal College Football’s Championship trophy from a well-prepared Georgia Bulldogs team (!!!) He’s also intelligent, a class act, and can almost impress even the world’s biggest Debbie Downer (which is, in fact, Nick Saban.) Almost.
Watching Tua week after week, like many others, I can’t help but think of Tim Tebow. Both are polarizing figures who march to their own drumbeat. Both made some legendary plays as freshmen. Both have/had the talent, wherewithal, and will to succeed at the collegiate level. This is important because college football is largely a coach’s game. When I say “a coach’s game,” I really mean it as in one coach’s game. Of the past ten national championships, Nick Saban has five. Each season ultimately comes down to which team can present Saban with the biggest challenge.
Consider this: In 2009, Bama wins it all. In 2010, it takes Cam Newton’s miraculous comeback against Saban’s squad to give Auburn a championship chance. 2011, Bama wins, 2012, Bama wins, 2013, it takes back-to-back last minute miracle plays to push Auburn past Bama. 2014, Urban Meyer’s Ohio State team hangs on by a thread to beat Bama in the inaugural College Football Playoff. 2015, Bama wins. 2016, it takes a last-second touchdown for Clemson to dethrone Bama. 2017, Bama wins. Had a few more breaks gone Bama’s way, Saban could have 7 or 8 championships right now (excluding the three loss 2010 campaign, of course.)
When Saban loses, sometimes he isn’t beaten by opposing coaches, but rather by an opposing player. One of those athletes was the aforementioned Cam Newton. Another was Tebow. Now, arguably for the first time in his tenure with the Tide, Saban has an offensive player of that caliber. Scary, huh?
Tua is not invincible, as his injury and fumble against Missouri proved. But when he is fully healthy, the man is as reliable and certain as death. The frustrating thing about Tua is how consistently excellent he is and how truly genuine he seems. He reminds me of my childhood hero, Steve Young, but with greater, nearly pinpoint accuracy throwing the ball.
Tua has a good chance of hoisting the Heisman this year, barring an injury or hiccup (I wouldn’t bet on the hiccup – the only team likely to give him a anything resembling a headache during the regular season is LSU.) He’s already dismantled Texas A&M, one of the few teams helmed by someone with a national championship who isn’t named ‘Saban.’
The major difference between Tua and Tebow is obviously their playing style. Tebow, built like a fullback, was used to bully his way through his formidable offensive line. Tua, on the other hand, is a laser-focused pocket passer with the ability to scramble when necessary.
According to Tebow, Tua could also go down as the greatest quarterback ever to play college football. For once, this Florida State alum agrees with the former Gator superstar. Tua is that good. Crazier yet, his sick skill set will translate to the NFL better than Tebow’s did. Out of Tebow’s ashes, Tua rose – right past Saban’s folded arms and speculative scowl. If Tua stays healthy, he will surely continue to rise.