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Jumbo Package: Alabama still in top 10, Tua Tagovailoa posts career day

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. Alabama fell to 10th in the latest polls after dropping Saturday night’s game to Texas.

This marks the first time since 2015 that the Crimson Tide have been ranked outside the top five at any point in September. In 2015, they rallied from a Week 3 loss against Ole Miss to win the SEC championship and College Football Playoff National Championship. If this year’s team is going to follow a similar script, it must first address a struggling passing game and a defense that failed to produce a sack or turnover against the Longhorns.

Amid Alabama’s tumble, Florida State rose to No. 3 and USC creeped up to No. 5. Eight Pac-12 teams made the poll as No. 24 UCLA and No. 23 Washington State each earned spots in the rankings for the first time this season.

It’s a 34-24 defeat at the hands of a non-conference opponent that looks good enough to be a top 10 team all season, if the way the Longhorns played Saturday was any indication.

“If it’s a competitive game against a top 10-opponent, and you lose it, you drop a couple spots in the poll, and by the time the college football playoff rankings come out, if they get back to winning games, it would be a hiccup, in my opinion,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told reporters in a conference call before the Texas game. “I don’t think it would hurt them at all. Now, that’s if they get back to winning games.”

Pretty simple, I’d say. Alabama very likely needs to win the SEC to make the College Football Playoff. It would be wise to root for Texas to run the table, which is highly possible given their schedule. If that happens then Alabama’s loss to them essentially won’t count when the committee is ranking teams. I’d think that even a two loss SEC Champ Alabama would make the playoff in that scenario. Alabama might even have an outside shot if they make it to Atlanta and take a second loss there, but we are obviously getting way ahead of ourselves.

A few streaks came to an end.

Alabama had lost to only one non-SEC in Bryant-Denny Stadium since Saban took over, which came back on Nov. 17, 2007, to Louisiana-Monroe. The Crimson Tide had won 43 straight home games against non-conference opponents, also the longest among FBS teams.

But Saturday’s win was more than just the snapping of Alabama’s home winning streak. The loss also marked the worst home loss for Alabama since Saban took over, and it was the program’s worst loss overall since falling to South Carolina 20-3 in 2004. The loss was Saban’s worst at home since Florida beat LSU 19-7 in 2003 in Baton Rouge.

The home streak over non-conference opponents didn’t mean a whole lot since Alabama spent so many years playing its early season marquee games at neutral sites. Alabama fans are accustomed to seeing the Tide dominate those games, though, and that streak came to an end last year. I do think a lot of it has to do with this modern era of free agency, as Alabama no longer brings up a team full of hungry understudies who have patiently waited their turns. Some do, of course, but others don’t.

Kennington Smith III over at The Athletic writes what I’ve been saying for a while now.

Perhaps it’s as subtle as Alabama being a premier program instead of the premier program, depending on who wins the championship this year: That’s a slight change with big implications.

Or, Alabama could turn the rest of the 2023 season into a joyless murderball revenge tour and re-assert its dominance. That result wouldn’t come as a surprise, but neither would a third consecutive season with multiple losses (and a fourth in the past five years). For perspective, Alabama only had three such seasons from 2009-2019.

Either way, the college football world will be watching, and what happens will have ramifications nationwide.

I don’t think that there has been a “the” premier program for some time. You could argue that Clemson was “the” premier program from 2016-2018 I guess, but Alabama won a title in between theirs. Georgia obviously won the last two national titles and the Dawgs are in contention again. Alabama is one of a very few teams that can compete for a title, but the NIL/portal combo certainly expands that field. Big time transfers at the wide receiver position were highly impactful as Texas and Florida State knocked off Alabama and LSU early this season.

Alabama’s QB position has stirred plenty of debate after Jalen Milroe threw two critical interceptions in the loss.

“I did but when he put the drive together to score when we got ahead — I thought that gave him a lot of confidence,” Saban said. “But we never ever discussed it. I can’t sit here and say the thought doesn’t come to mind for any player that’s having a difficult time.

“But he made some good plays at the end of the game and that was good to see. Obviously, the interception was critical in the game. So, we’re just going to try to work to get all of our players better.”

It will be an interesting week. Milroe has some limitations in the passing game that aren’t likely to go away, but he can learn to better manage risk and play his best game. Nobody seems to want to hear this, but not throwing the ball into traffic is one of the simplest things to fix: just stop doing it. Yeah, it limits the offense to a degree, but you play to your strengths. We’ll see on Saturday if the competition is truly still open, or not.

In NFL news, Tua Tagovailoa lit up the Chargers.

Playing for the first time since Week 17 last season due to a concussion, Tagovailoa triumphantly returned to the tune of 466 yards on 28-of-45 passing with three touchdowns and a 110.0 rating. Hill caught a pair of those touchdowns to go with 11 receptions and a mind-spinning 215 yards.

“I was just really excited to be out there again,” Tagovailoa said. “I don’t think anything else relates to the adrenaline rush that you get when you go out there. You have the fans — even when you’re warming up, you can smell the popcorn. There are just a lot of things that you just can’t really emulate. Being able to go out there with the guys, it was awesome.”

Emmanuel Acho has always been a huge fan of Tua’s.

Tua throwing to Hill and Jaylen Waddle ain’t fair. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year.

Jalen Hurts and Mac Jones faced off in Foxboro yesterday, and Jalen came out on top. It looked like it was going to be a blowout after Jones threw an early, and awful, pick six. To his credit though, Mac kept competing and got the Patriots back in the game with a 300+ yard, three touchdown effort. It wasn’t Jalen’s best day, but the Eagles went home 1-0. And we can’t talk about this game without mentioning Smitty.

Congratulations to Devonta and partner Mya. Great way to celebrate.

Calvin Ridley announced his return to the NFL as Jax beat Indy.

Later in that game, Tony Brown did a little larceny.

Derrick Henry reminded the league that he’s still around.

Last, yesterday’s loss in Atlanta wasn’t Bryce Young’s best day, but he did get his first NFL touchdown pass.

Everyone immediately noticed that Hurst threw the ball into the stands. Not to worry.

Tight end Hayden Hurst caught the 4-yard scoring toss from the former Alabama All-American – and promptly whipped the football into the stands at Mercedes-Benz Stadium before realizing what he did.

But all’s well that ends well, Hurst reported after the game, when the tight end tweeted: “Yes, I blacked out and threw Bryce’s first touchdown in the seats. But they threw it back, and the ball is in safe hands. Everyone one can relax and dial it back about 30 percent.”

All’s well that ends well.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.