Tua Tagovailoa, Nick Saban Happy Alabama Has Learning Experience of Clemson Loss

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2019

Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, speaks next to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during a press conference in Atlanta, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Alabama beat Georgia in overtime to win the NCAA college football playoff championship game. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/Associated Press

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and head coach Nick Saban are taking positives from last season's College Football Playoff National Championship game loss to Clemson.

According to Tony Tsoukalas of Rivals, Tagovailoa said Wednesday at SEC Media Days that the defeat will be a lesson learned: "It sounds bad, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to lose. What can you learn from a win?"

Saban seemed to echo his quarterback's sentiment, per Tsoukalas: "If you're a competitor, you're going to respond in a certain way and learn from the things you didn't do."

After starting the 2018 season 14-0, the Crimson Tide were crushed 44-16 by Clemson in the national title game.

Alabama won each of its first 12 games by 22 or more points last season, but the struggles began in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.

The Crimson Tide trailed for much of that game, but they managed to score a come-from-behind 35-28 win when Jalen Hurts replaced the injured Tagovailoa in the second half.

Alabama's near loss to Georgia, Tagovailoa's injury and his Heisman candidacy were all major storylines following the SEC Championship Game.

Also, offensive linemen Deonte Brown and Elliot Baker and tight end Kedrick James were all suspended prior to the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma due to a "violation of team rules and policies."

According to Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saban felt the Crimson Tide had "a lot of distractions" near the end of the season.

Even so, Bama beat a game Oklahoma team led by Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray 45-34 to reach the National Championship Game. Once the Tide got there, however, they were no match for the Tigers.

Alabama and Clemson have met in each of the past four College Football Playoffs, with each of them winning twice. Three of those meetings came in the National Championship Game in which the Tigers are 2-1.

The Crimson Tide and Tigers are odds-on favorites to return to the title game during the upcoming season since they are both bringing back key players on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne will lead the way for Clemson, although it will have to bounce back from the loss of a cadre of quality defensive linemen to the NFL draft, including Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence.

Meanwhile, Tagovailoa, wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, defensive end Raekwon Davis and linebacker Terrell Lewis are all back for Alabama.

Both Alabama and Clemson are strong bets to reach the CFP next season, and if the Tide truly learned anything from the loss to the Tigers last season, they should be much better prepared should they meet again.