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Sunday Morning Hangover: Playing the “If Only” Game for Each SEC Team

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A simple twist of fate can change a program in drastic ways.

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“If only Colt McCoy hadn’t gotten injured...”

People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate

~ Bob Dylan

When Marcell Dareus laid a lick on Texas quarterback Colt McCoy during the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, the Longhorns’ fate was sealed. For years since that moment, Texas fans have griped “if only Colt McCoy hadn’t gotten injured...” so much that it has become a meme. Who knows what fate would’ve become those two teams. If, as Texas fans claim, their team had won with a healthy McCoy, maybe the program would not have fallen into the sad also-ran they are now. Maybe Alabama would not be quite the juggernaut they are today. For the record, Crimson Tide fans contend that Colt or no Colt that defense was just too bad-ass.

What would become of SEC teams if a certain twist of fate had not befell them?

Arkansas Razorbacks

“If only... they hadn’t hired that bozo with a losing record...” Chad Morris was a regrettable and baffling choice to replace Bret Bielema. They gave him a six-year, $21 million contract which put him in the top third of college coaches. Arky has the money. They could’ve found somebody better who would not have lost to the likes of San Jose State and Western Kentucky.

Auburn Tigers

“If only... AU had let Gus Malzahn go to Arkansas...” Let’s admit it. Malzahn is a good coach. Is he a National Championship contending coach? No. This so-called quarterback guru is better at molding a field general when that is his only job. When the thousands of other responsibilities that go with being a head coach are added in, those skills diminish mightily. Plenty of mutterings surrounding the Auburn coach’s job security have been going around for several years. It’s that big fat contract with the ginormous buyout that has been a deterrent. Had they let him go off to Fayetteville, it might have completely wiped that obligation away and the Tigers could have already been two years into a rebuild.

Florida Gators

“If only... Feleipe Franks hadn’t gotten injured...” It’s funny how the college football press continues to slobber over the “genius” that is Dan Mullen. Yet the Gators head coach - for two years - chose Franks to be his starting quarterback over Kyle Trask. If Franks was still at the wheel for UF, they would have lost that Kentucky game he was injured in. They probably would have lost a couple more, maybe Auburn and South Carolina, and be staring at a December trip to Shreveport.

Georgia Bulldogs

“If only... Kirby Smart hadn’t faked a punt against Alabama on 4th-and-11 near midfield...” Do you get the feeling that Smart is going to have that one screw-up every year that keeps his Bulldogs from reaching the ultimate goal? This year it was a perplexing home loss to South Carolina. He is starting to look mighty similar to Mark Richt 2.0.

Kentucky Wildcats

“If only... Terry Wilson hadn’t gotten injured...” In this case, it’s probably accurate to say the team suffered when the starting quarterback went down. Wilson is not the greatest signal caller in the conference but he kept that machine moving because he actually HAS a passing game. UK was 2-0 with Wilson and 3-5 without him. Mark Stoops is desperately going with a converted wide receiver at QB and has come back with mixed results. In close losses to Florida and Tennessee, they could have used a competent passer to give them a chance at the end. Losses to SC and MSU may have gone another way as well.

LSU Tigers

“If only... Joe Burrow had stayed at Ohio State...” I’m sure plenty of LSU opponents are bemoaning this sentiment. But it’s funny to think that had he stayed in Columbus, he’d probably be leading the Buckeyes into the post-season but with a MUCH better defense. Ironically, Justin Fields may have gone to LSU instead. Out of high school, Fields’s finalists were UGA, Alabama and LSU.

Mississippi St. Bulldogs

“If only... MSU had hired a coach with an iota of roots in the South...” Some of the Bully faithful are starting to feel like hiring Joe Moorhead was a mistake. Whoda thunk it? A guy from Pennsylvania whose closest gig to the South was Georgetown and has no FBS head coaching experience? Dan Mullen built a good base but Moorhead has not been able to nurture it. Recruiting prospects to Starkville is hard enough. Having almost no rapport with the area high school coaches and prospects makes it even more difficult.

Missouri Tigers

“If only... Gary Pinkel had not gotten sick and retired...” A season removed after two consecutive SEC East titles, the winningest Mizzou coach hung it up at age 63 upon being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The Tigers got stuck with the mediocrity of Herc from The Wire, as well as probation and a one-year post-season ban.

Ole Miss Rebels

“If only... Hugh Freeze hadn’t gotten busted...” If Freeze had just wised up and used a burner phone or smashed his phone to a million pieces like Urban Meyer did, he might still be in Oxford being a fly in Nick Saban’s ointment. In reality, he was going to get busted eventually. There were so many shenanigans going on down there that the public will never know. The winning was all a result of those shady activities.

South Carolina Gamecocks

“If only... Jake Bentley hadn’t gotten injured... ” Well in this case, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. Bentley looked terrible in the opening loss against UNC and his replacement Ryan Hilinski looks like his clone. They probably would’ve ended up with the same crappy season, except they might have lost to UGA.

Tennessee Volunteers

“If only... Lane Kiffin had stuck around...” This is a tough one to read. Kiffin was not great at Southern Cal. It took him swallowing his pride and coming to work and learn under Nick Saban that made him mature as a coach. But surely, he would have done better than Derek Dooley. Don’t forget that it was a Kiffin-coached UT team that almost ruined Alabama’s 2009 run (Rocky Block). He might have really been an SEC pest over the years.

Texas A&M Aggies

“If only... Kyler Murray had stuck around...” As a true freshman in 2015, Murray competed with Kyle Allen for the starting quarterback job but ultimately lost out. As the season wore on, he got more playing time and ultimately started. For some unknown reason, he transferred to Oklahoma after his one season and wasted a year as a redshirt and another as a back-up. Had he stayed at TAMU, he probably would have started the next year, the Aggies would have had better seasons, and Sumlin would still be the head coach. Would Murray have been the QB he is now without the tutelage of Lincoln Riley? Probably not. Good move for Murray. Bad move for A&M.

Vanderbilt Commodores

“If only... Gary Kubiak hadn’t stunk up 2013...” Hang with me a second here. The Houston Texans followed up consecutive AFC South titles with a Kubiak-led 2-11 stinker in 2013. He was canned and replaced by Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. This move allowed James Franklin to take his “dream job” in Happy Valley. Would Franklin have stayed at Vandy in 2014 anyway? Who knows?

Alabama Crimson Tide

“If only... Tua Tagovailoa hadn’t gotten hurt... again...” This is the one you’ve been waiting for, eh? I’m sorry to sour your Sunday morning but Alabama is probably not getting into the College Football Playoff without Tua. The CFP Committee has said they will excuse past losses if a key player was missing due to injury, but they cannot look at this team with Mac Jones at quarterback and say this is one of the top four teams. Unless Jones and Alabama absolutely destroy Auburn coupled with Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah all find a second defeat, the Tide will probably not pass the “eye test” of the Committee. Even if one of LSU, Ohio State, or Clemson do the unthinkable and lose a game, they probably still get in. [Side Note: UGA isn’t beating LSU.]

SIDE NOTE

Tua is expected to make a full recovery from his hip injury but it could take up to 6 months or more to completely recover. Entering the 2020 NFL Draft at that point might be a mistake. As a third-year junior, he is eligible to return to Alabama for another year, even two. He could take that time to rehab, perhaps even redshirt or play sparingly. There is also the option of sitting out 2020, rehabbing and entering the draft in 2021. Tua and his family have many decision ahead of them.

Poll

If Tua was your kid, what would you recommend?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Go ahead and turn pro and risk a low draft pick.
    (141 votes)
  • 32%
    Sit out 2020 and rehab.
    (205 votes)
  • 37%
    Return to Alabama.
    (240 votes)
  • 8%
    Get a degree or two or three and quit football.
    (53 votes)
639 votes total Vote Now