But midway through the quarter, Georgia's Jake Fromm was the young quarterback set for stardom, having completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs up, 20-7, and looking like he'd become the second true freshman ever to lead his team to a national title - an honor Hurts failed to secure previous year.
It was riveting football as the Crimson Tide rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit for a 26-23 overtime win behind backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who threw three touchdown passes after replacing starter Jalen Hurts.
A quarterback battle seems inevitable.
At this point, Alabama fans may start petitioning for Saban to get a statue in Atlanta, as he now improves to 13-1 within the city's limits.
The victory also raised Saban's record against his former assistants to 12-0.
Despite Tagovailoa's heroics, the tide couldn't finish off the Bulldogs in regulation after kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal as time expired, forcing the game to go into overtime.
After the Bulldogs (13-2) settled for a field goal, Tagovailoa was sacked. On 2nd-and-26, he looked off a Georgia safety and delivered that season-defining strike to Smith that made him look like an National Football League veteran handling a late-game situation.
Other players on the rise are wide receivers Riley Ridley, who had a career-high six catches for 87 yards against Alabama, and Mecole Hardman, who scored on a 1-yard run and 80-yard pass. What he didn't do: sleep much before attending a morning-after news conference.
Saban has said that Tagovailoa was the ony player he ever recruited who went to church with him on each visit. "Aside from that, it was a good team win".
"I could not believe it". Nothing rambunctious, but just "hanging out" before the game.
Just another game. Just another title. Also, star LB Roquan Smith likely will declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead, Nick's bold self went to Tua early enough the young man could make mistakes and have time to overcome them.
At 66 years old, Saban shows no signs of slowing down, ready to take on what figures to be challenges from numerous same suspects in 2018 - Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State.
While it will be weird to not see Nick Chubb and Sony Michel running over opposing defenders in red and white uniforms next season, their legacy lives on. After all, he said there's still a sign in Monongah, West Virginia, celebrating the 1968 state championship team he played on.
"I don't know how he does it, to be honest with you", Pendry said. I think they put Tua in because Jalen kept dropping back to pass, and he was just looking at Calvin Ridley. Winning a bet like that just became a new part of my five year plan. Without the penalty that erased a field goal, Alabama would've had three points, and it would've moved to 10 had Anthony Averett made what should've been an easy interception of a bad Jake Fromm throw. But these 2017 Georgia Bulldogs showed more character and mental toughness than any team since I started cheering on the Dawgs.
For the third straight season, Alabama played a classic CFP final.
If Fitzpatrick and safety Ronnie Harrison turn pro, that means the entire starting secondary is gone, along with All-America linebacker Rashaan Evans and center Bradley Bozeman besides the underclassmen. Sabin left the Bayou State for what he considered greener pastures in the National Football League, then returned to the Southeast Conference to take the head coaching job at Alabama. However, Alabama's defense certainly kept the Tide in the game.
As for his own legacy, Saban refused to rank himself even with Bryant.
Another feather in Saban's cap is the way he's won his championships. He won them with Joe Namath dropping back throwing when people never, ever did it. "Then Tua took that sack in Overtime and I thought it was over".