Sorry, I’m running late: Non-apology apology in advance for typos, grammatical errors, or infelicities of style.
SO, first let’s get the uncertainty out of the way.
On a routine play late in the second quarter on Saturday, Tua Tagovailoa came up a little gimpy. When he came out of the locker room for the second half, his right knee was in a brace. But, despite that, the offense still called roll-outs for him, so the assumption (well, my assumption at least) was that it was just a tweak.
Then, as the week wore on, dark rumors started coming down the pipeline about the severity of his knee. And, with practice being sealed shut this week, no one could verify the extent of it. Then, MGM Grand pulled the Alabama-Mizzou line from its books: always a bad sign of an injury or uncertainty.
But, it turns out that his right knee is just sprained. Tagovailoa practiced all week and will be a playing this Saturday against a Mizzou team that will require a few points to beat.
So, feeling better?
How can you not, when comparisons to Drew Brees are being drawn to Tua from NFL Scouts. But, still, people have to have something to write — so we get this drivel about Haskins over Tua for the Heisman: nothing worse than manufacturing a competition when there is none.
Today, OWB will have your Missouri “defense” preview up. But, my lord, is #Tua4Heisman ever going to get a nice bump — ranked team on national television against this?
Some numbers on Mizzou's pass defense. Last 3 opponents have all posted better numbers against Missouri than their season averages, Purdue and South Carolina noticeably so. pic.twitter.com/sAKY40OBGQ— Ben Jones (@BW_Jones) October 11, 2018
Not like the news gets better in Tiger land either.
Sure, Alabama has a notable health issue — so to does Mizzou: Their best WR is out for the game. And, as if this Alabama needed more help, they got it; several Tigers’ DBs are banged up as well.
Now, if only we could get some definitive word on Big Lester Cotton’s ankle. He’s not practiced this week. High ankle sprains, even mild ones, are notoriously tricky and lingering injuries.
But, the Tiger faithful are accepting the seemingly inevitable. Alabama simply does not lose very often — and over 90% of the time under Saban, they’ve won at home as the No. 1 team in the nation.
There’s no realistic way to break this game down that provides hope for an upset. But even if we throw out how dominant Alabama has been this year, there has to be precedent for upsetting a top-ranked Alabama team at home, right?
No, not really.
Under Nick Saban, Alabama has been ranked No. 1 ahead of a home game against a Power-5 opponent 21 times.
In those games, Alabama is 20-1.
Average score? Alabama 36, Opponent 10.
Roll Tide, Mizzou. Roll Tide.
This is an interesting story on how to guard against scoring too quickly — a sentence I literally never thought I would be typing for an Alabama website.
“I don’t think anybody wants to apologize for scoring, so we’re not going to do that,” he responded. “But you know time of possession is probably important in a game.”
The defense does recognize that such quick strikes do put additional strain on them — I should note, however, that when garbage snaps are removed, the Tide defense is giving up the fewest points-per-possession of any team in the country. So, at least the 1s are holding up their end of the bargain.
And it means the defense is back out on the field. Safety Deionte Thompson likened it to a “sudden change situation,” which is the scenario that usually unfolds after the offense commits a turnover.
“We just have to be ready.”
SIDEBAR: Alabama is a data-heavy program. But, sometimes you just can’t convince an old-school coach like Nick Saban that TOP is perhaps the least meaningful major statistic out there. And it’s become increasingly less important in the modern game.
So, relax, Nick. And enjoy the show.
We sure are. #JoylessSabanMurderball
Here’s Saban’s presser from yesterday via AL.com
Casagrande’s live stream, as always, is here (Ranier Sabin filling in, it appears)...if you just have time for the bullet points.
-- Saban said the secondary depth has been impinged with the loss of three players in the two-deep and that there is a trickle-down effect from the departures of all six starters from the 2017 season.
I like the shoutouts to Nigel Knott and especially this one for Henry Ruggs III:
“He’s always been a physical player. He’s very explosive, strong, he’s tough, got some power, which I think sometimes you look at a guys physically and don’t necessarily believe that, but he’s kind of always had those qualities. I think because he’s playing with more confidence now they’re showing up now more than ever before. I’ve been impressed with the way he’s tried to block. Run after catch has been good. He runs hard and he’s physical.”
You can be forgiven for sort of freaking out about the mounting injuries. The Tide secondary, already thin, is out its shutdown corner and has two other injuries. Saban sounds...uh, less than sanguine about it.
“We’ll do the best with what we got,” said Alabama Coach Nick Saban following practice Wednesday, considerably less colorful than his description of how it was not as easy to replace missing linebackers as some might have suspected.
And, here’s what the retooled Money defense looks like, per the practice report:
-- The new first-team dime defense consists of Saivion Smith and Patrick Surtain at cornerback, Shyheim Carter at nickel back, Xavier McKinney at dime back and Deionte Thompson and Jared Mayden at safety.
Do keep an eye on this though: The Urban Meyer health watch. I’m not saying this facetiously, but the man’s cardiac system doesn’t handle stress well. When UF went into the tank, he had his well-documented trip to the hospital and sudden retirement. And now this year, drawing criticism from every corner, Meyer almost passed out on the sideline last week — and he’s having to monitor his health closely.
Entirely removed from what a POS Meyer is, he’s also one of the best recruiters and program builders in the game...and not a bit of that is worth his health. There come a time when you have to realize when to hang ‘em up, Coach. For your own good. I suspect a loss to Michigan or another playoff beating may be just that time.
Finally, I leave you with the most #Pac12Refs thing ever, one that casts serious doubt on the integrity of games on the West Coast.
Two weeks ago, USC and Wazzu played a helluva game in the Coliseum, but there were two egregious targeting calls that were apparently missed, even after review.
Turns out they weren’t missed at all. The P12 general counsel / VP for business affairs overruled the field and replay crews to overturn one of the targeting calls. And then, when the calls were reviewed again by the P12 in its debriefing, the league office said “that was correctly handled.”
Targeting wasn’t called and Tago stayed in the game. The replay report obtained by Yahoo Sports states that “unfortunately a third party did not agree” with the call. That “third party” was Pac-12 general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs Woodie Dixon, Yahoo Sports sources have confirmed.
Dixon oversees football for the conference but is not a formally trained official. Dixon telephoned in his opinion that the play wasn’t targeting, sources said. According to the report, his opinion overruled both the trained officials in the stadium replay booth and in the league’s command center.
This in a year where sports betting became legal? Not a good look at all, to have a business exec and attorney overrule medically-trained referees and game-seasoned officials. Maybe their refs aren’t as incompetent as believed; perhaps the P12 is just as corrupt as some people have suspected.
Besides, if you’ve learned anything from my tenure at RBR the past few years, it’s that you can’t trust lawyers with sports.