Posted on October 20, 2019, by Travis Pulver
At this point in the season, with the College Football Playoff Committee preparing to meet soon, every game tends to have a little more importance to it. Win the right game, and a team can become a contender for one of the four playoff spots. But lose the wrong game, and you can go from favorite to the outside looking in.
Saturday night’s game between Alabama and Tennessee was not one anyone had pegged as having any potential to impact the playoff picture. With Alabama winning the game with ease, 35-13, that would appear to be true. But it could actually have a rather significant impact.
Why? Because Tua Tagovailoa is going to be out for at least a couple weeks with a high ankle sprain he suffered Saturday night against Tennessee.
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There wasn’t anything unique about the play. Tagovailoa rolled out away from the pressure. The defense gave chase and he was tackled. But in the process, his ankle got rolled up causing the injury. After the game, Alabama head coach shared the news that the injury was a high ankle sprain—an injury that can easily take four to six weeks to recover from.
But he had surgery on it Sunday morning and the team is hopeful he will be able to return sooner rather than later. He has, however, been ruled out for Arkansas next week.
In a perfect world, with the buy following the game against Arkansas, he will be able to return for the showdown with LSU. The surgery, which he had last year following the SEC Championship game on the other foot, was likely down as fast as it was to give him the most time possible to recover. He was able to return for their CFP game against Oklahoma four weeks later.
Since they were not playing, it was easy to give him that time. But they still have five games on the schedule. However, that being said, they can probably still win at least three of their last five without him (Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Western Carolina).
But LSU was going to be a tough game with him; without him, it is going to be even tougher. Should they lose, they will still have a shot at a playoff berth, but they will no longer control their own fate. With a loss to LSU and a win over Auburn, they will be in good shape for a spot. But they made need one of the current undefeated teams to lose a game or two.
So, because of this injury, there is a chance that Alabama could miss the playoffs this year. With their largely unimpressive schedule, they are not going to make it in over an undefeated Ohio State, LSU, or Oklahoma. Several one-loss teams, many of them with more impressive schedules, will be able to lay a claim to that final spot—not to mention an undefeated Clemson team (with a terribly easy schedule).
Tagovailoa could, of course, return for the LSU game, and lead the team to victory. The world will continue on like it always has under Nick Saban’s reign. But if he doesn’t return….