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Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hoists the trophy as Alabama players celebrate. The Alabama Crimson Tide played the Georgia Bulldogs for the CFP National Championship Monday inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Alabama won the game 26-23 in OT. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

Whether Tua Tagovailoa starts Saturday's season opener for Alabama against Louisville, it won't be only because of one half of football against Georgia.

Certainly, Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts will start because Alabama believes that person is the best one going forward.

But if you want to go back to last season, the case for Tagovailoa is more complicated than the national title game win over Georgia.

He played in eight other games and compiled a passing efficiency of 175.0. He didn't play in enough games to qualify for the NCAA passing rankings, but if he had, that would've ranked third in the country — behind Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield (198.9) and Central Florida's Mckenzie Milton (179.3) and just ahead of Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph (170.6) and Missouri's Drew Lock (165.7).

Tagovailoa completed 11 touchdown passes, which are only six fewer than Hurts in about one-fourth as many attempts.

Of course, plenty of Tagovailoa's numbers came against beaten opponents, but the skill he showed in those appearances is why Nick Saban had no apparent qualms about inserting him into the game against Georgia.

Saban didn't just go grab somebody at the end of the bench in a moment of panic and somehow capture lightning in a bottle. Tagovailoa built toward that moment. He showed several times against live competition that he deserved more. Then when he got the chance, he kept on completing passes.

It's about more than 30 minutes of one very, very important game at the end of the season.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.

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