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Alabama’s offense may have historically great skill position talent, but the drop-off from injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones is significant. There’s no Jalen Hurts to bail out the Tide now.
How significant? According to our college football power ratings, we think Tua is worth about seven points in relation to the spread.
And the betting market seems to agree. The Tide have settled in as a 33-point favorite over Arkansas in Tuscaloosa this weekend after opening -35 in Las Vegas, while our power ratings (without adjusting for the injury) would make it about Alabama -40.
Tua injured his ankle against Tennessee on Saturday and coach Nick Saban said his quarterback would be out “a week or two.” It’s the same injury he suffered in the SEC championship game last season — but on the other ankle — and he played 28 days later against Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff.
If that week-or-two diagnosis is legitimate, the Tide would get Tua back for their pivotal game against LSU on Nov. 9. Without him, Alabama might be an underdog, or very close. The Tide hasn’t been a home dog since 2007 vs. LSU.
Here’s what Alabama’s point spreads would be with and without Tua for the remainder of the season.
Can Alabama still go undefeated?
Of course. It’s Alabama.
But using our power ratings and projected point spreads as a guide, the Tide would have just a 30-percent chance of winning each of its last five games without Tua. Add in the SEC championship game (against Georgia, for argument’s sake), and it’s just 18 percent.
If Tua plays against LSU and beyond, the Tide’s chances of going unbeaten rise to 40 percent.
The drop-off is key here
The drop-off when a quarterback gets hurt has as much to do with the backup as anything, whether you’re talking about point spreads or just overall outlook.
The drop-off to Hurts, when he was still at Alabama, might be minimal.
But to Jones, a three-star pro-style quarterback in the class of 2017, the drop could be steep.
Jones went 6-of-11 for 72 yards against Tennessee and has seen limited action in his time at Alabama.
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