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Each week, we’ll talk to our reporters on the ground to get their thoughts on the biggest happenings during the college football season. This week, we look at how Alabama will deal with the loss of Tua Tagovailoa, how Oregon’s defense has helped the Ducks return to contention and check in with under-the-radar, defending champion Clemson.
Tough moment for Tua
Alabama was rolling to another blowout victory on Saturday when star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went down with a season-ending hip injury. After the Tide players shook off the shock of losing their star quarterback, they held on for an easy victory. While Mac Jones had done an adequate job in his relief appearances this year, he now holds the Tide’s fading playoff hopes in his hands. So how does Alabama fare with Jones at the helm? And will losing Tagovailoa have an impact off the field as well?
We checked in with BamaInsider.com’s Kyle Henderson to get his thoughts.
“Following Alabama's 38-7 victory over Mississippi State, the win felt more like a loss when the players spoke to the media in postgame. Despite scoring four touchdowns against the Bulldogs on Saturday, Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris said he was not in the mood to field questions because he was upset about the injury to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
“As for Alabama's playoff hopes, it now comes down to whether or not the playoff selection committee feels that Alabama is one of the best four teams in college football without Tagovailoa at quarterback. The Crimson Tide has one more marquee game on its schedule to prove that on Nov. 30 on the road against Auburn with backup quarterback Mac Jones under center.”
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Clemson keeps rolling
The defending national champions won its 26th consecutive game on Saturday, blowing out Wake Forest 52-3 behind another dominant performance. The Tigers entered the week at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff standings and appear poised to have a chance to defend their title in this year’s playoff. But despite blowout win after blowout win and a star-studded offense, national buzz around Clemson’s season seems to be lacking. So are the team’s struggles earlier in the year firmly in the rearview mirror and have the champs now become underrated?
We checked in with TigerIllustrated.com’s Cris Ard to get his thoughts.
“When you look at Clemson's biggest critics this season, I believe their wait-and-see approach on Clemson is largely a reflection of their posture on the Atlantic Coast Conference, which isn't very good.
“Here's what we know: It's difficult to go undefeated in any conference, otherwise more teams would be doing it throughout college football. The ACC's struggles this year, in my view, do not invalidate Clemson as a legitimate national power, let alone a championship contender, particularly given what many players on Clemson's roster have already accomplished against highly ranked teams out of the conference in their careers. In other words, the makeup of this team is full of players who have already delivered against elite competition.
“What people like Paul Finebaum don't want to talk about is that Dabo Swinney is now a stellar 19-6 against top-10 teams as Clemson's head coach. And that doesn't support a case for Clemson not belonging in the conversation. While it's true that the CFP committee should not hand out lifetime achievement awards, it's also true that even the most novice observer can attest that the 2019 version of the Tigers is very much on equal footing with last year's edition that humiliated Alabama in Santa Clara. I would argue that this Clemson team is better.”
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When Oregon burst onto the scene as a national championship contender at the start of this decade, it was behind a high-flying, uptempo offense. Under Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich, the Ducks were a threat to score on any offensive play. While Oregon still has a future first-round pick at quarterback in Justin Herbert, Oregon’s defense has carried the team at times this season. Saturday, Oregon limited Arizona to just six points and 240 yards of total offense. It was the sixth time in 10 games this season that Oregon held an opponent under 10 points. So how would the suddenly stout Ducks defense match up against high-powered offenses like LSU or Ohio State in the College Football Playoff?
We checked in with DuckSportsAuthority.com’s A.J. Jacobson to get his thoughts.
“The Ducks had some good defenses at times during the Kelly/Helfrich years at Oregon, but not this good. Oregon improved dramatically from last year to this one, with the significant differences being the addition of defensive coordinator Andy Avalos and an infusion of youthful talent from their No. 7-ranked class of 2019. What makes this defense different is its balance, being solid against both the run and pass. They are 11th in the nation in rushing yards allowed, and fourth in the nation in pass efficiency defense. After 10 games, they are giving up 14.8 points per game, 11 less per game than last season. The Ducks have exceeded expectations so far this season and the biggest reason is the steady, solid play of the defense.
One of the primary themes for Mario Cristobal when he took over the Oregon program two years ago was to become more physical. Having come from an SEC-type background, Cristobal witnessed firsthand what it took to win consistently in that league. When the Ducks lost 22-18 to Auburn in the 2011 national championship game, and 42-20 to Ohio State in the 2015 championship, the big difference between Oregon and those teams was size at all positions, but particularly the lines of scrimmage. Cristobal’s emphasis on physicality and size is precisely what Oregon needed in those two games. The 2019 Oregon defense matches much better up front against physical teams than in the past, but also has big, athletic linebackers and a talented, seasoned back end. Their chances of playing good defense against quality teams like LSU and Ohio State is real.”
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