In a gripping turn of events for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Head Coach Nick Saban's reliance on quarterback Jalen Milroe in the College Football Playoff semi-final against Michigan proved to be a decisive move. Earlier in the year, Saban's hesitation over choosing his starting quarterback had been a topic of intense speculation.
However, Milroe's meteoric rise in performance, particularly highlighted in a pivotal game against Tennessee, swiftly shifted the scales in his favor. This advancement led to Tyler Buchner, another promising quarterback for the Crimson Tide, entering the transfer portal.
Milroe's journey, however, faced a setback during the crucial game against Michigan. The Wolverines narrowly edged out the Crimson Tide 27-20 in an exhilarating overtime duel. In the game's critical moments, Milroe struggled against a relentless Wolverines' defense, missing key opportunities to secure a win at the end of regulation time and in overtime.
The Alabama center's difficulties with shotgun snaps compounded the challenges for Milroe, who found himself besieged by defenders in his final attempt to change the game's trajectory. Despite these setbacks, Milroe's resilience shone through.
Regardless of the challenges in blocking, he made significant plays, a testament to his potential and why he is anticipated to be a preseason All-American in 2024. His stats, including a 16-of-23 passing for 116 yards and a 63-yard run, speak to his capabilities as a quarterback.
Milroe's Decisive Ascendancy
The latter half of the season saw Milroe solidify his position as the first-choice quarterback for the Crimson Tide, a status further cemented by his performance in a comeback victory over Tennessee on October 21.
This game was a turning point for Milroe, dispelling any lingering doubts Saban might have had. His performance came shortly after Saban expressed the challenges of coaching a young team to "SEC Nation." Alabama's journey to the College Football Playoff semi-finals was marked by a streak of 10 consecutive wins, including a victory over then-No.
1 Georgia in the SEC title game. Despite challenges, Milroe played a pivotal role in these successes, including inconsistencies in Alabama's offensive line. Looking ahead, Milroe's approach to handling criticism and doubt appears unshaken.
He has previously spoken about how internal skepticism within the Alabama program spurred him to seize his starting opportunity against Tennessee following a benching in a challenging win over South Florida. His mindset remains focused on self-belief and seizing opportunities.
Interestingly, Milroe recounted an interaction with former Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who once doubted his suitability for the quarterback position. Milroe's response to such skepticism has been to remain true to himself and his purpose, undeterred by external opinions.
Saban's handling of Milroe, especially early in the season, raised questions among analysts and fans alike. Criticisms following a home loss to Texas and the decision to bench Milroe for the South Florida game sparked debates about the fairness of placing the burden of team performance solely on Milroe.
As noted by Tim Tebow on "The Paul Finebaum Show," the responsibility for the team's performance extends beyond just the quarterback, encompassing various aspects of the team's dynamics and coaching strategies. Milroe's performance against Michigan, while not resulting in a victory, highlighted his potential and resilience.
The game showcased not only the challenges he faced but also the promise of what he could achieve under the right circumstances. As the Crimson Tide looks forward to the next season, Milroe's journey and development as a quarterback will undoubtedly be a focal point of interest and anticipation.