Tua Tagovailoa’s injury was the biggest story in Week 12 but the play of Jalen Hurts and Trevor Lawrence as well as a pair of undefeated teams losing headline the weekend that was in college football.
Tua Tagovailoa injury
First things first. This really stinks. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is out for the year after dislocating his right hip and suffering a posterior wall fracture. He is expected to make a full recovery but he may have played his last game as a member of the Crimson Tide. The junior is eligible for the NFL Draft and was projected to be a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick before the injury.
It may not be a guarantee Tua declares for the NFL Draft if his injury will prevent him from working out at the NFL Combine in February or for teams before the draft at the end of April. If I’m a quarterback-needy team, I’m looking at LSU’s Joe Burrow more now and Tua could slide out of the first round if teams think he’ll be an injury-prone player who is already recovering from a serious hip injury. Obviously, I’m not a doctor so I’m not going to pretend to be his physical therapist but Tua will have difficult decisions to make.
Could Tua bypass the 2020 Draft and return to Alabama next year as a senior? It’s entirely possible. Bleacher Reports’ NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller tweeted it would be a complete shock if he declared and said it would be a mistake on Tua’s part. I don’t agree with his opinion, because the risk of returning to college — to play for free — and run the risk of another serious injury is too much. If I was Tua, I would declare for the draft, rehab with NFL physicians and doctors while getting paid and trust in them that you’ll be back in short order. One more injury at Alabama and Tua’s NFL career could be over before it even begins. The door might be open slightly for Tua to return for his senior year, but I don’t see it.
I also don’t see any point in trying to assign blame for what happened to Tua. I do understand the need to blame someone anytime something bad happens. It’s human nature to blame someone when things don’t go our way. It’s okay to be mad Tua got injured, but it’s not okay to blame Nick Saban for having his starting quarterback in the game in the second quarter. As great as Saban is as a coach, he’s not a psychic and can’t predict when injuries are going to happen.
This was simply a freak accident. It’s sad it happened. You can be mad, sad, frustrated and throw your remote at your TV, but it’s not going to bring Tua back.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell is a wizard
Iowa State might be the best 6-4 team of all time. That’s really not even an exaggeration either. Matt Campbell’s team go bowl-eligible with a game-winning field goal as time expired to beat Texas by two points. That win sealed Campbell’s legacy as the greatest coach in Iowa State football history. The bar isn’t exactly something people need to stand on their tippy-toes to reach, but Campbell did it to become the first in program history with wins over Texas and Oklahoma.
Consider this stat that will absolutely blow your mind. Iowa State has played Texas and Oklahoma 101 times in their history. No coach had ever beat the two Big 12 blue bloods before Campbell. Iowa State is 9-90-2 all-time vs. Oklahoma and Texas.
Campbell has basically put Iowa State a notch below those two teams overall but when they meet on the gridiron, there isn’t a Grand Canyon-esque space between them. What a time to be alive for Iowa State football fans who are hoping and praying to keep Campbell on campus for several more years for several more opportunities for wins such as this. I wish I had better news for them, but I think the chances of that happening are about as likely as me suiting up to play quarterback next week.
Campbell’s star is on the rise and could be an attractive candidate should the Michigan State job open up or even for an NFL opening. Though I tend to think he’ll stick in the college game, sticking in Ames beyond this season is something I wouldn’t be on. Oddly enough, three Big 12 coaches could be the most desirable for NFL teams should they come calling with Campbell, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Baylor’s Matt Rhule.
Ohio State is already in the holiday spirit
Ohio State was a 52.5-point favorite over Rutgers and I honestly thought it wasn’t big enough. Rutgers is arguably the worst Power 5 team and Ohio State arguably the best, so I figured it would be a one-sided white-washing with the Buckeyes putting up a basketball score and Rutgers would have been like a dude at prom just hoping to get lucky to score.
So no one. Literally no one. Not a single soul would have envisioned Rutgers putting up the most points on Ohio State. Sure enough, the 21 scored by Rutgers matches the 21 scored by Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic squad in the season opener vs. Ohio State for the most allowed by the Buckeyes defense this year. Ohio State allowed 8.5 points in their six Big Ten games prior to Rutgers so this clearly tells you everything you need to know about Ohio State.
The Buckeyes got in the holiday spirit a little early. They were clearly feeling charitable and took it upon themselves to instill some confidence in Rutgers by allowing them to score three touchdowns. Ohio State could let them have that moral victory on a day they still lost 56-21. But credit Ohio State for seeing a team in need and going out of their way to make sure they have some positive vibes ahead of their Thanksgiving and holiday season.
Clemson is back, not that they went anywhere
The level of disrespect given to Clemson this year has been ridiculous. The worst thing you can say about Clemson is they played an FCS team (Wofford) and had a one-point win vs. North Carolina. Yes, the worst thing you can say about the reigning national champions is about their wins. Okay, the worst thing you can say about Clemson is they are guilty by association because of how terrible the rest of the ACC is.
But let’s be real here, just because Georgia Tech, Florida State, Syracuse, etc. are bad, doesn’t mean Clemson is bad. That’s just absurd. You can knock Clemson for a lack of quality wins, but they’re destroying everything in their path and quarterback Trevor Lawrence is looking more like the phenom we saw last year and not the one we saw the first half of the year.
Since Clemson’s close call vs. UNC, Lawrence has been on a tear. In the six games since Lawrence is completing 73 percent of his passes on 10.1 yards/attempt with 15 passing touchdowns (three rushing touchdowns) and only three interceptions. Clemson is outscoring their opponents 52.5-9.5.
Unlike myself who peaked at the wrong time in high school, Clemson is peaking at the perfect time and playing their best football of the year as they head into the stretch run. LSU and Ohio State have better wins on their resume, but no team may be playing better than Clemson right now.
What will/should/could Trevor Lawrence do in 2020?
Now that I’ve buttered up Clemson, I’m going to put a little panic in their hearts. If I’m Lawrence and I see what happened to Tua today, I’m thinking about my plans for next year. Lawrence won’t be draft-eligible until the 2021 NFL Draft so should he return to Clemson and run the risk of injury while playing for free and no financial security? He can take out a substantial insurance policy, which is a common thing to do. Or, he could sit out and not play at all and take the year to train for the Combine. How about playing in the XFL? That would really be something, wouldn’t? He’d get a check while playing football. What a concept, right?!
Consider Lawrence could have a perfect record and two national titles and still not be allowed to make cash for his football exploits. Should he challenge the NFL’s rules like Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams before him to try and enter the 2020 Draft? There are so many possibilities, but are any of them likely?
I don’t think so. It’s fun to speculate and let your mind wander with the possibilities, but I don’t think Lawrence would walk away from Clemson and quit on his teammates, coaches and fans.
Baylor blows 28-3 lead
Jalen Hurts was 22-of-29 passing for 217 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to lead Oklahoma out of a 28-3 deficit to beat Baylor 34-31 and hand the Bears their first loss of the year. Hurts had four touchdowns and 297 yards passing and 114 yards on the ground, but he had an interception and lost a fumble as he was going into the end zone that put Oklahoma on upset alert.
Hurts never lost his composure and was resilient and electrifying in leading the comeback effort. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe what Hurts means to Oklahoma. He did all this without his top weapon, CeeDee Lamb, otherwise, Hurts might have had 400 yards passing and the Sooners don’t have to rely on a Patriots-like 28-3 comeback. This game was awesome from the beginning when it looked like Baylor was going to win in a laugher. I was already looking ahead to Tuesday and projecting where Baylor could fall in the new playoff rankings. Surely, they would have to be at No. 8 where Minnesota was, right?! A little over two hours later, Oklahoma seized the lead and restored order in the Big 12 where the king isn’t ready to give up its crown.
Joe Burrow pads Heisman resume
After beating Alabama last week, we wrote Joe Burrow could begin writing his Heisman acceptance speech. He may as well take time on Sunday to proofread what he has so far because he’s only stretching his lead like Secretariat at the Belmont. Burrow completed 32-of-42 passes for 489 yards and five touchdowns in LSU’s 56-37 win over Ole Miss. This is all about Hurts and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields playing for second. But with every passing week, it feels like Burrow is going to have one of the highest point totals for any Heisman winner.
However, break out your umbrellas and galoshes because I’m going to rain on your parade. What’s lost in Burrow-mania and the hoopla surrounding the team’s first win vs. Alabama since 2011, LSU’s defense is pretty not great. LSU can outscore any team in college football but they have the worst defense among playoff contenders. If the Tigers don’t win the national championship, it will be because the defense allowed 45 points when Burrow only led LSU to 42 points.
College Football Playoff picture
Don’t expect much drama on Tuesday when the playoff rankings come out with a new Top 25. The Top 4 will remain the same with LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia. Minnesota and Baylor are out of the conversation so we won’t have their hypothetical undefeated season talk to worry about. But we could see Alabama penalized in the wake of Tua’s injury, although I tend to think, the committee will let that play out on the field before lowering them below Oregon and Utah. The winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game will leap Alabama in the final standings. Whoever does get the No. 4 spot will be the sacrificial lamb for LSU, Ohio State or Clemson because there are three elite teams and a handful of teams in that No. 4-9 range who are in the strong-quite strong range.