It’s not an ideal situation for the SEC to have one of its division races essentially decided by mid-October, but that’s what we might be looking at after Saturday.
Two things would have to happen, one extremely likely and one somewhat likely (hat tip to my radio partner Randy Kennedy for first making me aware of this scenario):
1. Alabama has to beat Missouri to remain unbeaten in the SEC.
I think we all believe this will happen, as does Las Vegas, which has installed the Crimson Tide as a 28-point favorite.
2. Georgia must beat LSU to give the Tigers a second SEC loss.
Tiger Stadium is a difficult place to play, even during the day. And yet, the visiting Bulldogs are more than a touchdown favorite (7.5 points) to beat LSU.
If both of those things happen, you’d have Alabama with no losses, Texas A&M with one (to Alabama) and everyone else with at least two.
In other words, for the Aggies to win the SEC West, you’d need Alabama to lose twice. The Crimson Tide hasn’t lost two SEC games in the same season since 2010.
And let’s not forget that LSU and Texas A&M still have to play each other, so it’s unlikely you could have a three-way tie for the West and get non-head-to-head tiebreakers involved. Auburn already has two SEC West losses, so even if the Tigers were to win out, they’d be unlikely to catch the Crimson Tide.
Of course, there’s one wild-card in all of this — the health of Tua Tagovailoa’s right knee. The Alabama quarterback came up limping after a running play in the first half at Arkansas on Saturday, and later was spotted wearing a heavy brace (though he remained in the game and soon after threw a touchdown pass).
On Wednesday, head coach Nick Saban told reporters Tagovailoa was dealing with a “sprained knee.” Now that sounds like nothing to most people, who tend to confuse the word “sprain” with “strain.”
The medical definition of “sprained knee” is an injury to one of the four ligaments that stabilize the knee. “Strain,” on the other hand, is a muscle injury, which tends to heal much faster.
Tagovailoa’s knee injury is probably something he’ll have to deal with the remainder of the year, or at least until he can rest up during the Crimson Tide’s bye week at the end of the month. (For the record, Saban said Wednesday that his quarterback has “been able to do all the work in practice, so that’s not an issue.”)
Saban is typically more forthcoming than your average college football coach when it comes to injury information, but I think it would be wrong to completely dismiss Tagovailoa’s knee sprain. It’s something to keep in mind, if not outright worry about.
I don’t have to tell you that he’s the most-indispensable player on the Alabama roster, if not in the SEC, if not in the entire country. And he’s the Heisman Trophy front-runner, so there’s that.
Perhaps we’ll see more of Jalen Hurts than we otherwise might down the season homestretch. If Tagovailoa’s reps have to be limited in any way, that certainly would make things a little more interesting in the SEC West.
So what do you think? Will Georgia beat LSU and render the rest of the season essentially moot in the SEC? Scale of 1-10, how worried are you about Tua Tagovailoa’s knee going forward?
I’ll take your questions and comments on that or anything else on your mind beginning at 10 a.m.