Earmuffs, Alabama fans.

What I’m about to say is not something that you want to hear. Cover your ears, close your eyes and shake your head while talking to yourself after reading the first part of this sentence.

Jalen Hurts is going to transfer, and he’s not going to be on Alabama’s roster at season’s end.

A prediction that I made about a month ago now seems more and more likely to play out. On Monday, Nick Saban didn’t mince words talking about Tua Tagovailoa being his starting quarterback on Saturday.

“I think everybody knows that Tua (Tagovailoa) is going to start this game, and we’re going to use Jalen (Hurts)’s skill set however we can to benefit the team,” Saban said during his Monday media availability.

“Just to be clear on something — I love all of our players on our team. As parents out there you can relate to this: You love all your children and sometimes your children do things a little better than others.”

So why would I jump to the conclusion that means Hurts’ days at Alabama are winding down quicker than some realize?

For starters, the new redshirt rule was something many thought that Saban would use to help Hurts. The rule, which says that players who haven’t taken a redshirt can keep a year of eligibility if they only play in 4 games. After appearing in the Louisville game, Hurts is now down to 3.

If I were a gambling man, I’d bet the house on Hurts playing on Saturday against Arkansas State, too. That would mean with 10 regular season games and at least 1 postseason game (but likely more), Saban would be allowed to use Hurts in just 2 more games to keep that redshirt.

I don’t buy that happening.

Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Based on the well-documented lack of communication between Saban and Hurts this offseason, I doubt that they worked out an agreement preserve the year of eligibility. In theory, it’s what every Alabama fan wishes would happen. In actuality, it’s a nightmare scenario for both players.

Think about this. Alabama is going to be up big in games. Real big. With Tagovailoa at quarterback every game, the Tide could indeed hit that 50-mark a whole bunch of times.

Do you think Saban is going to continuously bypass Hurts and put in Mac Jones to preserve Hurts’ redshirt? I don’t.

Oh, and Saban actually came out and said that the new redshirt rule wouldn’t factor into Alabama’s decision with Hurts. So there’s that.

Also, why would Hurts want to be relegated to the bench? This is the guy who’s been adamant that he was going to fight for this starting job. It’s not his anymore. Tagovailoa gives Alabama the better chance to score points, and that’s something that Hurts and everyone inside Camping World Stadium could see.

Any work that Hurts gets moving forward will be as the backup. Even if Saban does “use Jalen’s skill set however they can to benefit the team,” it’s not going to be anything more than a limited roll. They aren’t doing a true 2-quarterback system where both are getting somewhat close to equal reps.

This is Tagovailoa’s offense. Period. As long as he’s healthy, it will be for the next 2 seasons.

A Tagovailoa injury feels like the only possible thing that would keep Hurts in Tuscaloosa. If Saturday night repeats itself in the first month of the season, Hurts won’t have any reason to stay at Alabama. His offseason comments were the first real insight from him that he’s not just going to “take one for the team.” He reminded everyone that he has a brand.

Hurts also reminded everyone that he graduates from Alabama in December, so why would he leave? Well, he doesn’t have to leave. He can quit the program before he appears in his fifth game, stay enrolled at Alabama and get 2 years of immediate eligibility elsewhere in 2019.

This comes down to a couple things. I don’t believe Saban cares about preserving any of Hurts’ eligibility — I believed that to be the case before Saban’s redshirt-related comments on Monday — especially considering that he can theoretically transfer in the SEC. I also don’t believe Hurts is on board for any game plan that involves him being a backup with some sort of snap/game count.

Would it hurt his Alabama legacy? Sure. It’d be an especially awkward end to a career that really couldn’t have started off much better. But is Hurts going to sacrifice a year of eligibility so that he can be liked by more Alabama fans? I have a tough time believing that.

Barring a sudden change of events — a Tagovailoa injury, a Tagovailoa implosion of epic proportions, etc. — Hurts is leaving Tuscaloosa with eligibility left. That much seems inevitable.

What seems more and more inevitable is that Hurts isn’t on the Alabama roster by the time 2018 closes.

OK, Alabama fans. Now you can take off your earmuffs and get back to bashing anyone who would ever suggest that Hurts will leave Tuscaloosa.