Football is a precarious sport. All sports are, really, but as we saw on Saturday in Week 12 of the college football season, luck comes down to one play. For Alabama, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was on the receiving end of some bad luck. The star signal-caller is out for the year with a dislocated hip, and his career is facing a major setback as well. It's sobering how quickly fortunes can change, and this was merely the latest example.
Weeks like these always lead to overreactions, and that's OK. We are creatures of the moment. Overreactions are just as much a part of the game as touchdowns. So with Saturday's action mostly in the books, let's look at the biggest overreactions from the action and how absurd -- or completely warranted -- they might be.
Alabama is removed from the playoff conversation after Tua's injury: Laughably wrong. Ridiculous, even. Tagovailoa's season-ending injury in a 38-7 win over Mississippi State is a gut-punch to both him and anyone who's enjoyed watching him play over the past few years. That is first and foremost the story. But there is a tangential question as to how Tua's injury affects Alabama's College Football Playoff chances since such matters are taken into consideration. Well, Tua's injury shoudn't play as much of a factor as some believe, and the primary example is none other than the inaugural champion of the playoff era: 2014 Ohio State with Cardale Jones. If Alabama is to miss the playoff because of its resume, so be it. You shouldn't punish this team for something completely out of its control, though.
Auburn is better off without Gus Malzahn: I actually get wary of these types of statements, if for no other reason than hiring the next guy doesn't always mean hiring a better guy, but this is probably true. Auburn's 21-14 loss to Georgia was the same story written a different week. The offense is a liability, even if it comes alive at the most necessary times. If the Tigers had even a consistent offense, this team might win the SEC West because of all the work its defense puts in. Instead, we're stuck with what could have been and three more weeks of Malzahn's name being linked to Arkansas. Maybe now it is just time to move on.
Penn State doesn't stand a chance against Ohio State: I certainly don't like its chances as much as I did a few weeks ago. Penn State's 34-27 escape over Indiana could have been a byproduct of looking ahead to Nov. 23, but the Nittany Lions have been more vulnerable lately, particularly on defense. Facing better offenses has contributed to this, and Ohio State's offense is as good as any in college football. We already saw what the Buckeyes did to Wisconsin in October. We've spent so much time wondering if anyone in the ACC will challenge Clemson, we're only realizing recently that the same could be said for Ohio State in the Big Ten. I'd like to think Penn State's athleticism can give the Buckeyes a run for their money, but I'm not as confident now as I was earlier in the season.
Jalen Hurts is the Big 12's most valuable player: You can make a case for Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb, but the Sooners just capped off its biggest comeback in history, a 34-31 win at Baylor, without him. Hurts totaled 411 yards of offense and four touchdowns, and it feels like he's been doing everything for this offense over the past few weeks. He hasn't been perfect -- he's turnover prone at times -- but he's been the type of one-man machine that Oklahoma needs to weather any storm. Without him, Oklahoma has at least two losses.
We've under-appreciated Clemson this whole time: Correct, and I played a part in the problem. The Tigers' 52-3 victory over Wake Forest was a hilarious mismatch that highlighted their season-long dominance. Saturday marked the fourth straight game of at least 50 points for Clemson (and fifth time this season), and it's been on a tear since its close call to North Carolina. The defense has been an elite unit after being restructured with new starters, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been sharper in the second half of the season. It's like they're hitting their stride at the right time. When have we seen that with this program?
Utah has been the most dominant team out west: Since losing to USC in September, the Utes have won six straight games by an average of 29 points. The latest was a 49-3 shellacking of UCLA in uniforms that so closely resembled Ohio State I thought the Utes were the Buckeyes for a minute. Barring some late November weirdness, this team should be 11-1 heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game, and that matchup with Oregon is going to be a far more important game in the playoff landscape than initially thought.
Minnesota was overrated: Hard disagree. We're one week removed from the Gophers topping Penn State. It's tough to go undefeated, and Minnesota's November has always been notoriously tricky. Iowa is difficult at Kinnick, and this was a natural let-down spot. The Gophers had some costly mistakes in a 23-19 loss to the Hawkeyes -- coach P.J. Fleck getting an unnecessary unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was the icing on the cake -- but the Big Ten West crown is still in sight and the chase will likely come down to a regular season-ending game vs. Wisconsin. The Rose Bowl is still in within reach, which is a major high point for this program.
Ole Miss will be the SEC West's dark horse in 2020: I suppose you need to define "dark horse" in a division that has Alabama and LSU, but yes, Ole Miss could be way fun next year if quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is paired with offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez again. Plumlee had 212 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a 58-37 loss to LSU -- a blowout that wasn't really a blowout. Plumlee's been fun, and should be one of the players to watch next season as the Rebels pick up some hype throughout the offseason.
Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee is the 1st QB to rush for at least 200 yds against the AP No. 1 team since Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl vs. USC (2005 season).— Jason Starrett (@starrettjason) November 17, 2019