Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has only played in one fourth quarter all season long — last week in the team’s 29-0 win against LSU in Baton Rouge. Most of the time that has been by design as his team has had comfortable leads in just about every game they’ve played in.
That was definitely not the case on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa as the Heisman Trophy front-runner took a helmet to the leg late in the third quarter and did not return for the final 15 minutes of a 24-0 win over No. 16 Mississippi State that moved the team one step closer to the College Football Playoff… even if it might have come at a cost.
The CBS broadcast said Tagovailoa’s quad “locked up” after the hit and that understandable from both the impact of a helmet above the knee and the fact that it was a little chilly down in T-Town as well. Nick Saban said after the game that he would be “fine” and was just “beat up” but the scare was enough to draw muffled murmurs throughout the crowd at Bryant Denny Stadium with plenty of worry about how healthy he might be for the Iron Bowl in two weeks.
The signal-caller wound up finishing the game 14-of-21 for 164 yards and a touchdown in a relative uneven performance before the hit that also saw him throw his second interception of the year and get sacked a career-high four times. Needless to say, the offensive line certainly had their issues with pass protection against one of the best front seven groups in the country.
Backup Mac Jones came into the game in the final quarter in relief (Jalen Hurts remains sidelined himself after a small operation a few weeks ago) and threw six passes for -1 yards while nursing that four score lead. Naturally the entrance of the backup QB led to plenty of emphasis on running the ball and Josh Jacobs finished with 97 yards and a score, followed closely by Damien Harris with 53 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Everything is relative playing a team as dominant as Alabama and if you’re Joe Moorhead, you have to be at least happy with the way the MSU defense played in limiting an explosive offense to well below their season averages and making a goal line stand in the final two minutes. Despite it very much being a game for three quarters (or so) though, the Bulldogs did allow three touchdowns after coming into the game with just nine allowed all season.
Offensively, there was not a ton to write home about for the visitors as they converted just one 3rd down conversion all game long. Nick Fitzgerald completed 11-of-1920passes but they went for only 125 yards on a rough outing for the dual-threat quarterback that saw him also take five sacks. Kylin Hill led the way on the ground with 47 yards — most of which came on a 38-yarder that was one of the few standout plays on that side of the ball.
Still, it wasn’t enough to make a dint in the now 10-0 Crimson Tide, who recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1980. They remain on a collision course with Georgia in the SEC Championship Game down in Atlanta but first two more home games against The Citadel and Auburn. Mississippi State, meanwhile, still have a shot at eight (or more) wins this year with Arkansas and the Egg Bowl upcoming in November.
Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.
Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.
“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”
Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’Korn, Brandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.
Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.
Whether he knew it or not, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck broke news that will set certain circles of the college football blogosphere (including this one) by touching on the topic that is consistently gobbled up like Thanksgiving turkey: realignment.
“Change is inevitable,” Fleck told The Athletic. “I think we all know that. I think that the East and West have been around for a while. I like it, I like the division of it. But I don’t think it will stay the same. I think we’ll change it at some point because change is coming somehow, some way. And I think people are going to want to move it around, and shake it up a little bit.”
Fleck said the topic came up during the Big Ten’s spring meetings in Arizona; the conference did not comment on the topic.
The Big Ten split into divisions upon Nebraska’s 2011 arrival, memorably going with the idiotic Legends and Leaders alignment that was designed to protect rivalries and preserve competitive balance. That alignment lasted three years, until Maryland and Rutgers joined the party in 2014 and the conference rejiggered its alignment into a more sensible East and West split.
While a geographic divide does preserve rivalries and makes both logistical and logical sense, it has come at the price of competitive balance. The East champion has gone a perfect 5-for-5 in Big Ten title games under the current arrangement.
However, the East is a mere five games ahead of the West in regular season matchups, an average of one extra victory per season.
If — and at this point’s a very big if — the Big Ten does realign again, the conference could return to a Legends and Leaders format (hopefully with different names) or it could scrap divisions altogether, giving each school two or three protected rivals while putting the rest of the league in a regular rotation. The positive aspect of this alignment is it guarantees the top two teams would meet in Indianapolis, but the drawback is it could trigger an instant Michigan-Ohio State rematch.
It’s too early to report when and if a second realignment would happen, but as Fleck reminded us this week it is never too early to speculate.
The season does not begin today, but if it did Penn State would be without one of its best players.
Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin confirmed to the press at Big Ten media days that defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and running back Journey Brown are presently suspended for a “violation of team rules” dating back to spring practice. The suspension is slated to end Aug. 1.
Gross-Matos, a junior, led Penn State in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (20) while registering 54 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery on the season. He enters the year a candidate for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.
“I talk to him all the time,” Franklin told Lions247 of Gross-Matos, despite the suspension. “[He is] doing great.”
Brown, also a junior, posted eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown in 2018.
Santino Marchiol‘s college football career was brief and scandalous, and now it appears it’s over.
Marchiol first joined the news cycle at Texas A&M, where he attempted to cast himself as a whistleblower against NCAA violations committed by Jimbo Fisher‘s staff. When that stick of dynamite turned into a dud, Marchiol transferred to Arizona to reunite with the coach who signed him out of IMG Academy, but he was gone from Tucson as quickly as he arrived after video surfaced showing Marchiol using a racial slur against his black teammates at Texas A&M.
Marchiol returned to his native Colorado in attempt to walk on at CU, but that comeback attempt has once again died before it could live as it turns out Marchiol was arrested for domestic violence on June 24. From the Denver Post:
According to Pueblo police records, Marchiol was arrested at about 3:30 p.m. on June 24 and booked on suspicion of second-degree assault bodily injury, a felony. Marchiol faces two misdemeanor assault charges, court records indicated, as well as a violation for contempt of a court protection order. He was released on bail June 25.
“Santino was never enrolled as a CU Boulder student,” Colorado said in a statement. “He was invited to be a walk-on for the football team this fall. Coach Tucker has since rescinded that invitation.”
Marchiol would’ve had to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA rules, but now it seems as if he may sit out the remainder of time as it’s unlikely any other college football staffs will take on a player who attempted to narc to the NCAA on violations that, frankly, aren’t a big deal to begin with, then was caught using a racial slur against black teammates and then was arrested for suspicion of domestic violence.