Didn’t you have a feeling this was how Nick Saban was going to let this play out?
With top-ranked Alabama crushing Arkansas and second-ranked LSU doing what it needed to hold off Auburn, Week 9 officially set the stage for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between the Tigers and the Tide in Week 11. As we’re in the midst of 14 days of unrelenting, breathless hype for the latest edition of the Game of the Century, though, the overriding individual storyline is undoubtedly Tua Tagovailoa‘s availability.
The Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback and at-one-point Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain in the win over rival Tennessee in Week 8 and didn’t play this past Saturday in the blowout win over the Hogs. Following surgery, the junior’s return to the playing field has been a fluid situation.
After easily getting past the Razorbacks, and saying he’s “doing really, really well,” Nick Saban stated that he expected a midweek (this week) return to practice for Tagovailoa; that has indeed been the case, although the head coach, not surprisingly, will continue to hold his Tua availability cards close to the vest in the coming days — and probably right up until kickoff.
While the signs continue to point to Tagovailoa taking the field in Tuscaloosa a week from Saturday, there’s always the possibility the quarterback could suffer a setback and be sidelined for the highly-anticipated matchup. If that’s the case, Mac Jones would make the second, and easily most important, start of his collegiate career.
In the first, the sophomore played the role of game manager very effectively in completing 16-of-20 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns… in the first half. Playing just a few minutes into the third quarter, Jones would add another touchdown pass on a pair of completions to finish the day 18-22 for 235 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Saban’s counterpart, though, isn’t having any of the injury gamesmanship.