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.
The playoff field is set for the FCS Playoffs. Defending national champion and No. 1 North Dakota State took the top seed overall but will face a challenging bracket if the Bison are to claim another national title this year.
As the top seed, North Dakota State will own home-field advantage in the Fargo Dome for as long as they are in the playoffs, with the exception of a possible national title game appearance, which will be played in Frisco, Texas on January 5. North Dakota State’s portion of the bracket includes No. 4 seed Kennesaw State (who was the No. 2 team in the FCS top 25) and last year’s national title runners-up from James Madison. The Dukes were not seeded in this year’s tournament with a record of 8-3, but they are always to be considered a dangerous opponent this time of year.
A handful of teams ended playoff droughts with this year’s bracket. East Tennessee State is making its first playoff appearance since 1996, ending the longest drought among this year’s playoff teams. Delaware and Southeast Missouri State are each back in the playoff for the first time since 2010. The field also includes three first-time playoff teams; Incarnate Word, Lamar, and UC Davis.
The FCS Playoffs begin next weekend.
Michigan running back and special teams player Berkley Edwards was carted off the field on a stretcher in the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium on Saturday in a scary scene that paused the game for roughly 10 minutes. The morning after the Wolverines beat Indiana, however, there is good news to report on Edwards. Edwards shared an update on his Twitter account to tell his followers and Michigan fans he has been released from the hospital and he is OK.
“Just got out the hospital,” Edwards said. “[E]verything is good!”
Edwards followed that up to say he did not see the Indiana player who hit him (Cam Jones, who was ejected for the hit) and his head is still hurting a bit.
It is unknown at this time what the status of Edwards will be for Michigan’s regular-season finale at Ohio State this week. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will play in the Big Ten Championship Game as the East Division champion.
Send another coach through the coaching carousel. Multiple reports on Sunday say Texas State will move on from Everett Withers after this season. Football Scoop and The Athletic each reported news of the coaching change for the program.
According to Football Scoop, as reported by College Football Talk contributor Zach Barnett, Withers will not coach for Texas State this week in the regular season finale against Arkansas State.
Withers was hired by Texas State prior to the 2016 season to replace Dennis Franchione. Texas State had back-to-back 2-10 seasons in his first two years on the job and the Bobcats are just 3-8 this season with one game remaining. This will be the fourth straight season Texas State has had no more than four wins (and it could be a fourth straight year with no more than three wins).
The former James Madison head coach will likely manage to find a job somewhere on a coaching staff, even if not as a head coach. Texas State is now looking for its third head coach since jumping up from the FCS to the FBS in 2012.
After arguably the biggest weekend in UCF football history, the Knights are now enjoying their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 of the season and second-highest ranking in program history. UCF moved up to No. 8 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll as they finally managed to jump ahead fo a couple of power conference programs that have been standing in the way the past few weeks.
Alabama claimed all 61 first-place votes from the AP voters this week. The top-ranked Crimson Tide are followed by Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, and Oklahoma as there were no changes in the top six. No. 7 Washington State, UCF, and LSU all took advantage of No. 12 West Virginia falling five spots after a loss at Oklahoma State.
UCF moved into a tie with LSU for the No. 8 spot in the ranking this week, but the Knights have officially moved ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes slipped to No. 10, dropping one spot.
Army is also making some headlines in the AP Top 25 by appearing in the ranking for the first time since 1996. Army cracked the Ap Top 25 at No. 23 to be in the AP Top 25 for just the third time since 1985.
Here is this week’s AP Top 25:
1. Alabama (61)
3. Notre Dame
7. Washington State
8. (tie) UCF
8. (tie) LSU
10. Ohio State
12. West Virginia
14. Utah State
15. Penn State
21. Boise State
22. Mississippi State
25. Iowa State