What the loss of Tua Tagovailoa means for college football

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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Injuries take a toll on football players, some more than others. They produce a number of implications for the player and their team at the same time, and they become larger when it happens to a star. Tua Tagovailoa went down on Saturday with a hip injury, and we learned he’d be out for the rest of the season.

Losing a star player normally hurts a team quite a bit, but Alabama losing their star quarterback means more than just finding a replacement. They must learn how to win by relying on players being forced into new roles, and the door opens in the College Football Playoff as well as their own conference.

Losing Tua Tagovailoa

It’s been a unique season for the Crimson Tide. Same with last year. Tua Tagovailoa emerged as the starter for Alabama on the biggest stage, and he never looked back. He’s the biggest reason for Alabama’s explosion offensively, and it’s forced Nick Saban to adapt on both sides of the ball. Normally known for their elite defense, Tua brought this team to a new level by introducing the Crimson Tide as an offensive team last year and this year. Replacing him won’t be easy, and also puts pressure on other players to inherit new roles 10 games into the season.

Nick Saban’s defense normally dominates their opponent, but lately it’s been difficult to do that. College football favors the offense, and that trend grows more and more every year, and the Tide aren’t immune to that change. Alabama’s given up 20+ points four times this year, including 46 to LSU. This defense hasn’t been up to normal Alabama standards, and now must step up to get the Tide back to the playoff. Tua’s successor steps into big shoes as well.

How good has Tua Tagovailoa been over the last three seasons? His 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns broke single season school records, and he already has the school record for career touchdown passes. Mac Jones already took over once for Tua, finishing 18-for-22 for 285 yards and three touchdowns passing. But that was against Arkansas. If the Tide want to get back to the playoff, they need some help, but they also need the offense to continue its explosive production.

An open door

Losing Tua warrants questions. Fans assume Alabama won’t be the same, and for good reason. Tua’s one of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen this decade (arguably one of the best ever). His loss makes an impact on his team, but also opens the door for other teams in college football and within their conference.

Georgia already jumped Alabama after the Tide’s loss to LSU. With Alabama’s hopes to get into the SEC Championship game all but over, Georgia’s the only other team that can win the conference (besides LSU). Without a conference championship, it’s tough to see the Tide get into the playoff, and another Georgia loss figures to eliminate them too. With the number of teams with one loss, other conferences are looking to jump the Tide and the Bulldogs.

As it sits right now, Georgia ranks 4th and Alabama’s 5th. There’s a plethora of teams behind them that will jump up if one (or both) of them lose. Oregon (9-1), Utah (9-1), Minnesota (9-1), Penn State (9-1), Oklahoma (9-1), and Baylor (9-1) all possess the same record as Georgia and Alabama. One loss by the Tide/Bulldogs moves them down, and one of these teams moves up. Assuming LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson win out, it looks like the winner of the Big 12 or Pac 12 figures to secure the final spot. Obviously, a lot needs to happen going forward, but the door appears to be open.

Losing Tua Tagovailoa opens a plethora of opportunities for players on his team and for teams in college football. Alabama’s in a “prove it” stage of their season, and new leaders must emerge. If Mac Jones can keep up the production, the Tide are alright. The road ahead just looks much tougher.

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