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Hurts So Good? Top-Ranked Alabama Certainly Hopes So

In a season where reciting superlatives has been the norm, we offer two cautionary notes about Alabama, No. 1 again in the Tiebreaker.com Top 5 –  and maybe No. 27 in an imaginative NFL power ranking.

Alabama

The Tide (6-0) plays Missouri on Saturday and starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has spent most of the week tending to a sprained knee he sustained against Arkansas.

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Nick Saban told the media on Wednesday that Tua is practicing, and the truth is, he did return after initially getting hurt and played a few snaps wearing a brace. That brace accessorized his wardrobe this week.

Tagovailoa has thrown for 1,495 yards with 18 touchdowns and no interceptions, completing 75.2 percent. If he can’t play, or aggravates it during the game, the Tide has the best insurance policy in the nation – Jalen Hurts.

Hurts, just a junior, was 26-2 as a starter and is a former SEC offensive player of the year.

It’s probably nothing to worry about. Mizzou’s pass defense is ranked No. 109 in the nation. And Alabama has scored at least 45 points each week.

The other item is about Alabama’s defense. Saban wasn’t happy with it after Arkansas racked up 31 (and still lost by 34). The big issue was a tight end screen that resulted in two Razorbacks’ first-half TDs.

Georgia

If you read this piece from bottom to top, dessert before dinner, you will notice LSU has been left off the Top 5 after its one week visit. Losing 27-19 to Florida will do that to you. So you can expect the Tigers to be peeved Saturday when they play the Bulldogs (6-0) in what should be a thrilling SEC showdown. The teams haven’t met since 2013.

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Georgia has the goods to counter LSU’s irritation. It begins, like every team, with its quarterback, sophomore Jake Fromm, whose completion percentage is 72.8.

The Bulldogs also have planted a field of halfbacks over the years, harvesting abundant greats like Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst, Rodney Hampton and Todd Gurley in the modern era. They had had another Heisman Trophy winner in 1942, Frank Sinkwich.

Last season, they sent Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to the NFL. No problem. The Dawgs have four new backs splitting time who have combined for 1,062 yards (6.1 average) and nine TDs.

Here’s something else to watch: LSU loves to run with senior Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. And Georgia’s defense is a bit banged up.

Ohio State

We know Tagovailoa has gotten most of the Heisman love. And with good reason. But the Buckeyes have been flooding social media with news of their own star, Dwayne Haskins. And with good reason.

Haskins leads the nation in TD passes (25), has a 71.7 completion percentage, and has been the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week three times straight and four times in six weeks.

Look what he did against Indiana last week: He threw for 458 yards and six TDs, completing 33. The passing yards were three short of Art Schlichter’s school record set in 1978. That’s why the Buckeyes average almost 38 passes. Haskins’ 462 yards of total offense against Indiana is a school record.

Ohio State also has a huge defensive stud in end Nick Bosa, the brother of Los Angeles Chargers defensive end, Joey Bosa. Finally back after injury, Nick Bosa has four sacks, six tackles for a loss and a TD scored off a forced fumble.

The Buckeyes play Minnesota on Saturday.

Clemson

It seemed as if the Tigers (6-0) lost some roar fighting hard to survive Syracuse two weeks ago. Of course, that was to be remembered as freshman Trevor Lawrence’s first start at quarterback and for the panic which ensued when he got knocked in the noggin in the first half.

Then things cooled down big-time last week against Wake Forest. The Tigers ripped the devil out of the Demon Deacons. They gained 698 yards and won 63-3. And now they have a bye week to rest before next week’s North Carolina State game.

Lawrence looked great in the first half against Wake, completing 18-of-21 to nine different receivers for 173 yards and two TDs. He wasn’t ESPN’s No. 2 high school prospect for nothing.

The Tigers also have a powerful running game. Freshman Lyn-J Dixon is the ACC’s reigning rookie of the week after gaining 163 yards. Travis Etienne (167) and Adam Choice (128) filled out the trifecta of 100-yard backs. Never in Clemson history had three gained over 125 yards in the same game.

Look at Clemson’s remaining schedule: N.C. State, FSU, Louisville, Boston College, Duke and South Carolina – 12-0 looks very attainable.

Notre Dame

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Knute Rockne’s first win as head coach, 26-6 over Case Tech in 1918 (George Gipp and Curly Lambeau were on the team), we welcome the Fighting Irish to the Tiebreaker.com Top 5.

We admit quarterback Ian Book, a redshirt junior, is not quite the legend Gipp is, but it’s unlikely the Irish would be 6-0 without him. This week, Book was put on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, one of college football’s top prizes.

Notre Dame’s athletic department said it thinks Book is the first program QB in seven decades to complete 70 percent of his passes in three straight games – the only games he has started, by the way. Take that, Joe Montana!

With Book, the Irish have scored average of 46.3 points. He has thrown for nearly 900 yards, with nine TDs with a 73 percent completion rate  81 yards and three TDs rushing.

The Irish haven’t started a season 7-0 since 2012, the year Alabama blew them out 42-14 in the BCS national championship game. They host Pittsburgh on Saturday.

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