Top-ranked Alabama could have overwhelmed Tennessee for the 13th straight time in the “Third Saturday in October” rivalry on Saturday, however the Crimson Tide suffered significantly for it.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left the sport in the second quarter of their 35-13 victory with what coach Nick Saban referred to as a high-ankle sprain. He headed to the locker room beneath his personal energy earlier than halftime and later left Bryant-Denny Stadium in an ambulance.
And so, because the air in the stadium grew to become clouded with cigar smoke, the query of Tagovailoa’s harm hung even heavier.
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Saban stated after the sport that his junior star will probably miss “a week or two” and that he’ll endure an MRI on Sunday to decide the total extent of the harm. That shouldn’t have an effect on the Crimson Tide’s SEC or College Football Playoff hopes in the brief time period: They don’t want Tagovailoa to beat Arkansas, and so they have an more and more well timed bye week forward of their monumental showdown with No. 2 LSU.
But how would this offense look against more durable competitors, with out Tagovailoa main it?
Would anybody anticipate backup Mac Jones to make sufficient performs to go blow for blow with LSU on Nov. 9? The Tigers have one of many nation’s most potent offenses beneath Joe Burrow; they’re averaging 540 yards and 50.1 factors per sport after downing Mississippi State 36-13 on Saturday.
Would they anticipate Jones to stay unperturbed by Auburn’s magnificent entrance seven, who’ve led the Tigers to 17 sacks and restricted opponents to 17.1 factors per sport?
If the Tide had been to get by these groups with out Tagovailoa, then how would they fare against Florida or Georgia in the SEC championship sport and past?
Even with out Tagovailoa working the offense a lot of the evening, Alabama (7-0, 4-Zero SEC) rolled to 373 yards and people 35 factors against an overmatched Volunteers squad (2-5, 1-3) — spectacular sufficient out of context, however all season lows for the Tide, who entered this sport as a 34.5-point favourite.
Such is the efficiency of Alabama’s offense with Tagovailoa beneath heart. Jones was respectable in his absence, finishing 6 of 11 passes for 72 yards, however there have been miscues with Alabama’s unbelievable receiving corps. The Tide did present they will alter their offensive sport plan and rely extra on the run. To that finish, Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. mixed 145 yards and three touchdowns.
“I thought we ran the ball pretty effectively,” Saban stated. “Mac made a couple of decent throws. Hopefully we’ll get him more ready to play now that we have a little time.”
Alabama’s offense scored 21 factors with Tagovailoa in at quarterback; it scored seven with out him. It averaged 12.9 yards per go try with him in, and averaged 6.5 with out. It averaged 8.7 yards per play with him in, and 5.Three with out him. That’s to be anticipated with out Tagovailoa beneath heart, however that is additionally partly as a result of Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt altered his defensive sport plan to put extra strain on Jones. Alabama’s remaining opponents will nearly definitely use the same technique.
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Tagovailoa’s harm may even have a deeper affect than simply potential absences against key opponents. He suffered the identical harm final season in the Tide’s win over Georgia, and it affected his play as they continued on to the Playoff.
From the SEC championship sport onward, Tagovailoa accomplished 65 p.c of his passes — and averaged 259 yards per sport by the air — with seven touchdowns and 4 interceptions. That features a sport against Oklahoma, which ranked 108th nationally in whole protection (448.1 yards per sport) and 96th in scoring protection (32.Four ppg). That’s not to say Tagovailoa would expertise the same setback ought to he return from harm, nevertheless it was an element late in the 2018 season.
Saban and his employees know the power of this workforce lies in its offense. The protection has made enhancements because the season has progressed, nevertheless it’s one of many youngest items Saban has fielded in his Alabama tenure. As accidents to that group have piled up, it has change into extra obvious the Tide would want to rating extra factors to ameliorate that inexperience. Even with the expertise Alabama nonetheless has on offense, that plan takes a success with out Tagovailoa.
“We only have the players that we have,” Saban stated on how his workforce would transfer ahead with out Tagovailoa. “We’ve got to do what they can do so that we have the best chance to be successful.”
Whether the Crimson Tide can do that continues to be to be seen, as a result of even in beating the Vols, this a lot was obvious: As Tagovailoa goes, so, too, may Alabama.