Never has a 31-point win felt worse than in Tuscaloosa. It was going to be his final drive of the game, because of course it was, wasn't it? Injuries like this never happen on the first play of the game.
Leading 35-7 with 3:01 left in the first half, Tua Tagovailoa rolled to his left and was tackled awkwardly by a group of Mississippi State defenders. He came down awkwardly, screamed in pain and was carted off the field. Alabama announced Saturday evening that Tua dislocated his hip and will miss the remainder of the season. Knowing what we do about his draft stock, there's a good chance it's the last time we see Tua in crimson. (Papa Tagovailoa will have a lot to say about this, obviously.)
The conversation turned to Alabama's Playoff chances almost immediately, but I want to take a moment, in case this is really it, to eulogize a truly transcended college football career.For a guy who played less than two full seasons and never won a Heisman, few made a mark on the game like him. He burst on the scene as a precocious freshman, making daring throws that, perhaps, he didn't know enough not to make in leading Alabama from down 13-0 to beat Georgia. A 4th-and-4 throw into end zone traffic for a tying touchdown, then a stunning 2nd-and-26 bomb for the title.
He played nearly perfect football before injuring his ankle as a sophomore, and, now, his junior season is done prematurely. The guy averaged 11.2 yards per attempt with 76 touchdowns against nine interceptions over the past three seasons. He reminds me of a Manu Ginobili-like figure to Nick Saban's Gregg Popovich, the guy who added some necessary creativity and athleticism, and in the process unlocked a new level of play for the entire program.
With his season now complete, Tua has officially broken his own FBS single-season passing efficiency record, in the process becoming the first player to crack 200 over a full season. (He'll finish at 206.93 this year, after putting up a 199.44 last season. Jalen Hurts is currently on pace to best both marks, at 209.14.) Now that Saban has won with game-breaking quarterback play, can you ever imagine him going back? At this point, post-Tua, it would be like unplugging a color TV to watch a black and white set.
Tua is the quarterback that all future Alabama quarterbacks will be judged against, the shoes the Crimson Tide will constantly try to fill.
And now, for Alabama's Playoff chances.With all due respect to Mac Jones -- who went 7-of-11 for 94 yards in relief of Tua on Saturday -- if Alabama was No. 5 with Tua, you'd have a hard time arguing Alabama is now the No. 4 team in the country without him, even with a win over Auburn in two weeks. Look, it's still Alabama, and you can point to Ohio State's run in 2014 as evidence Alabama deserves to get in -- Lord knows, Gary Danielson tried -- but you'd have a hard time convincing me Alabama can go blow for blow against Justin Fields, against Trevor Lawrence and against Joe Burrow with Jones behind center.
Tua's injury means that, for the first time since 2010 and the second time since 2008, we'll head to late November without Alabama at the forefront of the title conversation. Think about that for a moment.
Kinnick Stadium in November is where undefeated seasons go to die. Iowa has hosted undefeated, Top 10 opponents in November six times since 2008. The results of those games:
vs. No. 3 Penn State, 2008: Win, 24-23
vs. No. 5 Michigan State*, 2010: Win, 37-6
vs. No. 2 Michigan, 2016: Win, 14-13
vs. No. 3 Ohio State, 2017: Win, 55-24
vs. No. 8 Minnesota, Saturday: Win, 23-19
* - Game was on Oct. 30, but, c'mon.
The Hawkeyes never trailed on Saturday, jumping out to a 13-0 lead after one quarter and hanging on from there, crucially forcing a turnover on downs deep in Hawkeye territory while clinging to a 20-13 lead late in the third quarter.
Iowa's fifth straight win in the series and 15th since 2001 means the Gophers will not go undefeated for the first time since 1941 and will not beat Iowa and Wisconsin in the same season for the first time since 1990, but there are still plenty of firsts ahead of the Gophers. They can still win their first Big Ten West title, can still win their first Big Ten title since 1967 and they can still reach their first College Football Playoff. All they'll need to do is win at Northwestern next week (doable), beat Wisconsin in back-to-back years for the first time since 1993-94 (gulp) and then beat a juggernaut Ohio State team (triple gulp).
It wouldn't be a big Minnesota game without a big PJ Fleck moment. After the turnover on downs that kept the Gophers' deficit at 20-13, Fleck ran right into the middle of the action and cost his team 15 yards.
Kirby Smart has now done something Mark Richt never did. Heading into the Auburn game of Year 4, Smart's and Richt's resumes were eerily similar.
Richt: 40-9 with one SEC title, two SEC East titles, one AP Top 5 finish, two AP Top 10 finishes
Smart: 40-11 with one SEC title, two SEC East titles, one AP Top 5 finish, two AP Top 10 finishes
Richt hadn't played for a title as Smart did in 2017, but that's only because the Playoff didn't exist in 2002.
Richt's 2004 Bulldogs went to Jordan-Hare and lost, 24-6, to a Tommy Tuberville-led team that would go undefeated but be left out of the BCS title game in favor of a Pac-10 team and a Big 12 team. (Imagine that happening today.)
Smart's 2019 Bulldogs went to Jordan-Hare and won, 21-14.
While the other title contenders rely on their quarterback play, Georgia leans on its defense, and it's worked. (So far, at least.) Jake Fromm threw for all of 110 yards and the Bulldogs rushed for 141, building a 21-0 lead through three quarters and then holding on as Auburn mounted a fourth quarter rally.
The win hands Georgia its third straight SEC East crown which, in the 28-year history of the SEC's divisional alignment, has been accomplished by only three other coaches:
College Football Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier, Florida (1992-96)
College Football Hall of Famer Gene Stallings, Alabama (1992-94)
Future College Football Hall of Famer Nick Saban, Alabama (2014-16)
Oklahoma mounts a comeback for the ages. At the 11:02 mark of the second quarter, the Sooners' national championship hopes weren't just on their last ropes, they were on the last threads of the last ropes. Jalen Hurts had just committed his second turnover in as many possessions, and Baylor led 28-3. They would have to be nearly perfect from that moment on.
In fact, over the game's final 41 minutes, Oklahoma's offense went like this:
-- 14 plays, 75 yards, touchdown
-- 12 plays, 74 yards, touchdown
-- 11 plays, 51 yards, fumble at the goal line
-- 13 plays, 90 yards, touchdown
-- 13 plays, 77 yards, touchdown
-- 9 plays, 59 yards, field goal
For those without their phone calculator apps out, that's 72 snaps for 426 yards and 31 points, all while the OU defense limited Baylor to one field goal, two three-and-outs, one four-and-out, one fumble recovery and one interception, which sealed OU's 34-31 win, the biggest comeback in program history.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, FBS teams were 1-906 since 2005 when trailing an AP ranked team by 25 points or more at any point in the game. Make it 2-906.
Playing without Biletnikoff Award favorite CeeDee Lamb and starting tight end Grant Calcaterra, Hurts overcame his three turnovers by simply putting the team on his back. He accounted for 69 of OU's 95 plays and 411 of the team's 525 yards.
The Big 12 probably won't have a Playoff representative this season, but if it does, it'll be Oklahoma.
Don't look now, but Michigan is putting it together. Maybe it was unrealistic of us to expect Michigan, breaking in a brand new offense run by a first-time coordinator, to look like a finished product coming out of the gate. Okay, of course it was unrealistic of us. But, well, it's Year 4 of the Jim Harbaugh era, and people have been ready to throw dirt on Harbaugh's tenure at Michigan since he arrived in Ann Arbor.
This year's Wolverines club isn't going to win the Big Ten, they're probably not going to beat Ohio State, but there's still plenty to be proud of this season. Since falling behind 21-0 in Happy Valley, Michigan has outscored 9-1 Penn State 21-7; blown out 8-2 Notre Dame 45-14; blown out Maryland 38-7; and blown out Michigan State 44-10.
Harbaugh's run at Michigan is similar at this stage to the early years of Mack Brown's run at Texas, where the chief rival is still an equation that has yet to be solved, but the balance of power inside the state borders has clearly shifted. Michigan has now won three of four over Michigan State -- that hadn't happened since the maize and blue took six straight from 2002-07 -- and Saturday's 34-point margin was the Wolverines' largest since 2002.
Texas is (decidedly) not back. Tom Herman's team took the field Saturday afternoon in Ames knowing a win over Iowa State and a Baylor loss to Oklahoma would set up a de facto Big 12 semifinal in Waco next Saturday. By now you know the 'Horns lost, and hours later I simply can't make sense of how it happened.
Iowa State led nearly the entire game, yet with 4:01 to play in the fourth quarter, Texas took over at its own 15 nursing a 21-20 lead. Here is a run/pass breakdown of UT's three scoring drives:
-- 5 passes, 0 runs
-- 10 passes, 0 runs
-- 11 passes, 4 runs
And yet, with the game on the line, Texas ran on first and second down, for zero and zero yards. A 3rd-and-10 tunnel screen was batted away, and Texas never touched the ball again. (Jumping offside on a 4th-and-5 field goal try with 2:01 to play and no timeouts in hand had a lot to do with that.)
Obviously, there's more to building a game plan than adding up the numbers of runs and passes. But on three scoring drives (when the clock demanded Texas go off-script) Texas threw 26 passes and ran it four times; on the 10 remaining possessions (eight of them three-and-outs), Texas threw 14 passes and ran the ball 22 times -- including all six plays after a second-quarter interception in ISU territory, trailing 7-0, which ended in a turnover on downs. Texas finished the game with 26 carries for 54 yards.
The tl;dr here is Texas won't head to Waco with a trip to a second straight Big 12 title game on the line, but to avoid falling to 6-5, in a year that began inside the AP Top 10.
That had to feel really, really good for Iowa State, though. Matt Campbell and company have to spend their nights lying awake, gritting their teeth at what might've been. Their four losses have come by one to Iowa, by two to Baylor, by seven to Oklahoma State and by one to Oklahoma. This doesn't wipe those away, but it does make the season as a whole easier to swallow.
FRIESThe Super 16. The Nuggets is once again honored to vote in this year's FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll. Here's this week's ballot.
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
Odds and Ends
a. Imagine if you'd told Ed Orgeron back when he took the Ole Miss job that he'd one day be the head coach of a No. 1-ranked LSU team. Now imagine he'd get there like this: winning a 58-37 game that saw 1,328 yards of total offense.
b. Three teams have scored more than 10 points on Ohio State this season: Florida Atlantic, Maryland and Rutgers, who easily covered a 53-point spread in a 56-21 Buckeyes win.
c. Clemson beat Wake Forest, nominally the ACC's second-best team, 52-3. They out-gained the Demon Deacons 516-105. The Tigers have now scored 50 or more in four straight games and hit the half-a-hundred mark six times in 10 games.
d. No comment necessary.
e. Auburn is 7-3 with a win over No. 6 Oregon and losses to No. 1 LSU, No. 4 Georgia and No. 12 Florida. If you ever need proof of how Auburn lives to run its coaches off, here you go.
f. Louisville was the worst team in the ACC a year ago. Today, they clinched a bowl game under first-year coach Scott Satterfield, thanks to a 34-20 win at NC State. A victory over Syracuse next week means the Cardinals finish (a distant) second in the ACC Atlantic.
g. A year after going 1-11, Central Michigan is 7-4 under first-year coach Jim McElwain. The Chips will play for the MAC title with a win over Toledo and a Western Michigan loss to Northern Illinois.
h. It's come against UMass and VMI, but Army's last two games have seen the Black Knights run 143 times for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns. Army ran for more yards in one game than Akron has all season. They ran for more yards in two games than a dozen teams have all season, coming into Saturday.
i. Louisiana-Lafayette completed its road schedule with a 37-27 win over South Alabama, which is kind of a bummer for Billy Napier and company.
j. Penn State took the ball at its own 25 and a 27-24 lead with 10:45 left in the game. They gave it back with 1:44 to go, squeezing out 9:01 over the course of 18 plays. James Franklin wisely went for it on 4th-and-1 from the goal line, which resulted in a touchdown and a 34-24 lead en route to a 34-27 win. The Nittany Lions are now 9-1 and head to Columbus next week. Win that and last week's loss in Minneapolis is ancient history.
k. UCLA entered Saturday with the Pac-12 South title in its control, despite a 4-5 overall record, since the Bruins (4-2 in Pac-12 play) had 5-1 Utah and 5-2 USC still ahead of them. The Bruins no longer control their own destiny. Utah 49, UCLA 3.
l. Rice will not go winless. The Owls jumped out to a 31-14 halftime lead over Middle Tennessee and hung on for a 31-28 triumph.
m. New Mexico State will not go winless, either. The Aggies beat FCS Incarnate Word, 41-28.
o. Akron is the last remaining winless team. The Zips have Miami (Ohio) and Ohio left.
p. Hawaii has won seven or more games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2007-08 after a 21-7 win at UNLV.
r. The TCU-Texas Tech game was an elimination game of sorts, as the loser will need to win out to reach a bowl game. The Frogs jumped out to a 24-3 lead, Tech rocketed in front 28-27 and 31-30, but TCU won, 33-31. TCU can reach a bowl with a win over Oklahoma or West Virginia, while Texas Tech will need to beat Kansas State and Texas.
s. Thanks to a 20-17 squeaker over South Florida, Cincinnati can clinch the American East with a win over Temple next week.
t. Odell Haggins is now 4-0 as Florida State's interim head coach. He went 2-0 filling in for Jimbo in 2017, and he's now 2-0 this year after a 49-12 blowout of Alabama State.
u. No one goes into the dragons' lair without getting burnt.
t. For all its faults, USC can win the Pac-12 South with a win over UCLA next week and a Utah loss to Arizona or Colorado. The Trojans went to Berkeley and beat Cal, 41-17.
A Division III game drew more people to MetLife Stadium than the New York Jets. God bless college football.