The injury to Alabama starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is horrible for myriad reasons. Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated right hip during the second quarter of his team's 38-7 win over Mississippi State on Saturday, and he will undergo surgery on the hip in Houston on Monday. The injury is going to keep him out for the rest of the season, which is a significant blow to Alabama and the sport of college football as a whole. Tagovailoa is one of the best players in the country, and he plays the premier position for one of the premier programs in the game.
More so than Alabama or the sport, it's a tremendous blow to Tagovailoa -- a player who has long been projected to be one of the first names called in the 2020 NFL Draft. There's no telling how this injury will affect his draft status. Dr. Louis Levitt, a surgeon who specializes in orthopedic trauma, revealed that this is the kind of injury that, and Levitt leans toward the longer end of that timetable. In other words, this injury might not cost Tagovailoa just the remainder of the 2019 season, but the 2020 season as well. It could also cost him millions of dollars, depending on how it affects his draft status and NFL future. So, as I said, the injury is horrible for a lot of reasons, which is why the common reaction to it in real-time was understandable, if misguided.
I didn't witness the injury live on Saturday. Instead, what I saw was the reaction on social media from fans and media alike, many of whom responded to the injury with some form of "why was he still in the game?" and blaming Alabama coach Nick Saban for leaving him in and allowing the injury to happen.
The desire to place blame or find fault is a strong instinct in us all. When we see something like this happen, blaming somebody brings comfort to us because it presents the illusion of control. Believing that we have control over everything that happens is a lot less terrifying than understanding how truly random many of the events of our lives are. Sometimes we do have that control, and therefore, somebody is to blame. Other times, like this injury, there's none to be placed.
Tua was injured in a football game not because Nick Saban allowed him to be, but because football is a physical sport in which injuries happen all the time. Any player on the field can be hurt at any point in any play. He was playing in the game for the same reason his teammates were playing in the game: because they're football players. Tagovailoa was not the only Alabama player to suffer an injury during the game. Both defensive linemen Raekwon Davis and D.J. Dale left with injuries, as did receiver Henry Ruggs III, all three of whom are likely have NFL futures. Nobody asked why they were still in the game when their injuries happened.
Of course, the difference is none of those three are the quarterback, nor did they suffer an injury as severe as Tagovailoa's. Nor were they already dealing with an ankle injury sustained a month ago, which led to people wondering why Saban would allow Tagovailoa to play in the game in the first place. This line of thinking ignores the idea that Tagovailoa has any agency in his own life and his own career.
What makes it all even more misguided is that Saban has never been shy about pulling his starters in games, particularly Tua. Alabama played 15 games last season, and Tagovailoa only saw fourth-quarter action in five of those contests. This season, he'd only played in the fourth quarter four times throughout Alabama's first eight games.
At the end of the day, Tua was on the field with Alabama ahead 35-7 in the second quarter for the same reason every other starter for every other team is still in the game in that situation: football games aren't two quarters long. This fact was evident later in the evening on Saturday when Baylor lost to Oklahoma after holding a 28-3 lead in the first half.
Tua Tagovailoa suffered an injury in the game because, unfortunately, injuries happen in football -- in any quarter, on any play. Just because it sucks doesn't make it any less true.
Elephant in the Room of the Week
LSU beat Ole Miss 58-37 in Oxford on Saturday night. It marked the fourth time in 10 games that the LSU defense has allowed at least 35 points this season, and the second consecutive week it has done so. It's enough of a concern to make you wonder if LSU's defense is a fatal enough flaw that it will cost the Tigers a national title shot. It's a legitimate concern, but it's not one I'm going to write about here and now.
Instead, I'll write about the most remarkable thing about LSU's win over Ole Miss: the Tigers allowed 402 yards rushing in the game. Remarkably, it was the third time Ole Miss has rushed for at least 400 yards in a game this season. The Rebels rushed for 413 yards against Vanderbilt (which has let two teams do it, including Kentucky on Saturday) and 447 yards last week against New Mexico State. Now, a team rushing for 400 yards in a game isn't as rare as you might be led to believe. It's happened 19 times this season alone. What is unique, however, is that the team that allows its opponent to rush for at least 400 yards wins the game.
In the College Football Playoff Era (since 2014), there have been 194 games in which a team allows its opponent to rush for 400 yards. In those 194 games, the team that allows those yards has gone 16-178. As for this season, the teams are 2-17. Another interesting note? Of the 19 teams to allow 400 yards rushing in a game this season, LSU is the only one that currently has fewer than four losses. It's also the only Power Five school with a winning record to allow it to happen in 2019.
These feel like bad omens, but again, I'm not here to write about how LSU's defense is a legitimate concern moving forward.
Cartwheel of the Week
Stat of the Week
Oklahoma stormed back from a 31-10 deficit against Baylor to beat the Bears 34-31 on Saturday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the largest comeback against any FBS team with a record of 9-0 or better since NCAA classification became a thing in 1937. The previous record had featured a couple of 17-point comebacks. In 1964, USC came back from down 17 against a 9-0 Notre Dame, and in 2010, it was Nevada coming back from 17 down against a 9-0 Boise State.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Baylor held a 28-3 lead in this game in the first half. You might remember that the Atlanta Falcons held a 28-3 lead on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI and went on to lose 34-28 in overtime. You might also remember that last week, Michigan State had a 28-3 lead on Illinois and went on to lose 37-34. I think it's time we start asking if 28-3 is the Most Dangerous Lead In Football.
Tumble of the Week
Georgia coach Kirby Smart went down on Saturday. His team did not.
Bad Beat of the Week
The Monday After sends its thoughts and prayers to anybody out there who might have had Colorado State +10.5 against Air Force on Saturday. The Rams were trailing 31-21 with 1:35 left in the game with a third-and-goal at the Air Force 1-yard line. Not only were the Rams about to cut it to a three-point game and solidify their position to cover, but possibly win the game. Then this happened.
As somebody who has been on the receiving end of his fair share of hellacious beats in 2019, I can do nothing but extend my condolences to all those affected by this tragedy.
Tom Fornelli Team of the Year Dropouts of the Week
Beginning in 2019, The Tom Fornelli Team of the Year Award, presented by The Tom Fornelli Foundation For Football Exceptionalism, is to be given out to one incredible football team that best displays the values of The Tom Fornelli Foundation For Football Exceptionalism. Every week, teams will be eliminated from the running for reasons. Those reasons are at the sole discretion of Tom Fornelli and The Tom Fornelli Foundation For Football Exceptionalism, which is comprised of Tom Fornelli and nobody else. Here are the teams eliminated from consideration in Week 12.
|School||Reason For Elimination|
You can't blow that lead. You just can't.
Blew a 27-6 lead in the fourth quarter.
Might as well do this now while you're distracted by the bad beat.
You broke my friend's heart.
Losing to West Virginia cripples the Big 12's playoff hopes.
Bad time to suspend your most important players, even if it's the right thing to do.
Allowing 400 rushing yards is a bad look.
For a full list of eliminated teams and the respective reasons, click here.
Tweet of the Week
Rivalries are the best. Especially when you're playing for a giant, bronze pig.
AP Voters of the Week
This week, we honor three AP voters. They are Cleveland.com's Nathan Baird, Sports Radio 810 WHB's Soren Petro, and The Monday After AP Voter of the Millennium, Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The reason I'm honoring these gentlemen is that they've fallen victim to a disease that afflicts the entire world of college football.
Yes, I'm speaking of Respectable Loss Syndrome. You see, all three of them kept Texas on their ballots this week despite the Longhorns losing to Iowa State to fall to 6-4 on the season. Now, I'm not entirely against having four-loss teams on your ballot at this point of the year, but they have to have done something to justify it. Texas hasn't. All Texas has done is lose to good teams. It lost 45-38 to LSU, 34-27 to Oklahoma, 23-21 to an unranked Iowa State and 37-27 to an unranked TCU. Well, I guess it's lost to a couple of good teams, anyway. Now, all three of our voters have Iowa State ranked, which they would have to do to justify ranking Texas.
But the thing about Respectable Loss Syndrome is that it causes people to award teams too much credit for losing games while not paying attention to the games a team has won. Texas has respectable losses, but its best win is a six-point triumph over No. Oklahoma State. A respectable win, sure, but not one that should be considered enough to overcome four losses.
I can make this same argument for the Iowa State team that just beat Texas and is featured on all three of these voters' ballots. The Cyclones are 6-4 and have not won a game against any team currently in the AP Poll. All four of its losses have come against teams that are currently ranked in the AP Poll.
Iowa State appeared on 14 ballots this week. Respectable Loss Syndrome spreads quickly.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Until the next Monday After!