SEC bowl projections, Week 12: The Tua Tagovailoa aftermath
Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury, which ended the Alabama star quarterback’s season, will have a far-reaching impact. Several of them, in fact.
That is in little doubt after the Crimson Tide’s game against Mississippi State, after which absolutely nobody was talking about Bama’s 38-7 victory but rather how high the price was.
Not only did Tagovailoa’s injury ruin Alabama’s day, but stars like Henry Ruggs and Raekwon Davis also got hurt in Starkville. It won’t matter next week against Western Carolina, but the following week against Auburn? That game just became a whole lot more interesting.
So, we have to look at what is going to happen next, which leads us to our weekly reminder that these projections are based on where we think teams will wind up after the first weekend in December, not where they are now.
So, what impact will Tagovailoa’s injury have on Alabama’s bowl projection?
(Pauses, takes deep breath, prepares for the social media storm coming …)
I now think the SEC is getting only one team into the College Football Playoff. Just LSU.
We’ll go further into depth on Monday when we analyze the CFP contenders, but here is the Cliff’s Notes version: We think Alabama will struggle to beat Auburn, if the Tide even wins that game at all. And we think Oregon, which keeps rolling, will score a defining victory against Utah in the Pac-12 title game.
Yes, we know, we know. If Bama does beat Auburn then the Tide will own a win over the team that beat Oregon, so how does that even work?
Well, results against common opponents matter to the CFP committee. They do. But conference championships also matter. The totality of a team’s resume also matters. The state of a team’s roster — how will this team fare in the Playoff — matters. Let’s say Bama waxes Auburn and stays ahead of Oregon in the rankings and LSU beats Georgia for the SEC title and the Tide faces LSU for a second time in a CFP semifinal.
Would that rematch be close without Tagovailoa? How could Bama possibly keep up with the Tigers with its defense weakened even further, and have to face Joe Burrow and the gang again?
The CFP committee has to weigh all of that. So, for now, we have Bama sliding out of the CFP and into the Sugar Bowl, with Georgia and Florida still making the New Year’s Day 6 bowl but jostling around accordingly.
Now for our weekly look at the middle of the SEC pack and their bowl eligibility chances. We’re still omitting Missouri because the NCAA does not seem inclined to reverse the bowl ban on the Tigers.
We include our completely unscientific chances of each team making a bowl. This list is shorter now that South Carolina and Ole Miss both have seven losses and are out of contention.
Kentucky (5-5 overall, 3-5 SEC): The Wildcats got the job done against Vanderbilt after an early scare. Now UK just needs to beat Tennessee-Martin to get to the postseason, then perhaps get to a warm-weather bowl with a win over Louisville. Chances of bowling: 98%
Tennessee (5-5, 3-3): After a bye week, Tennessee gets back to work this week with a trip to Missouri for the first of two chances to rack up its sixth win and become bowl-eligible. How many thought that could happen after the Vols got off to a 1-4 start? Chances of bowling: 85%
Mississippi State (4-6, 2-5): At the risk of repeating ourselves, we continue on the same projection path for MSU that we have had for weeks. An easy win next week over Abilene Christian brings the Bulldogs to the brink, then it all comes down to the Egg Bowl. Chances of bowling: 50%
Now, on to our bowl projections: