Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's hard to imagine that Alabama' s Iron Bowl loss (at home, having been ahead 24-0, vs. archrival, etc.) could be any more painful than it already is, but the Tide may have found out differently today as All-American safety Mark Barron will miss his team's bowl game after torn pectoral muscle suffered against Auburn. Barron underwent successful surgery for the injury Friday and will be out for somewhere in the neighborhood of four months.
The news is not good for Alabama in the short-term; their secondary is the thinnest and youngest part of their roster (Barron could be replaced by Will Lowery , a former walk-on), and Barron by far its most experienced and reliable member. The Tide have struggled with mental lapses in pass defense throughout the season, and will be even more vulnerable in their bowl game without Barron's steady hand.
But in the longer term, Barron's injury could prove to be a blessing in disguise. A junior widely regarded as one of the best safeties in the country, Barron was widely expected to test the draft waters and possibly move on to the NFL after this season. It's possible the injury has brought an end to his Alabama career. But if the surgeyy puts too big a dent in his stock, he could decide to return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season. Of course, he could decide to bolt anyway, just as he could have decided to stay anyway before the injury. But the surgery and his potential inability to work out for scouts ahead of time certainly won't boost his NFL standing or the chances of an early departure.
The Tide can also take some very minor solace in that they're not the only SEC team forced to play their postseason game without a major contributor; Mississippi State will be without the services of leading receiver Chad Bumphis after ther sophomore found out earlier this week he had suffered a broken collarbone in the Bulldogs' win over Ole Miss. The silver lining for MSU fans? Unlike with the Tide and Barron, they know they'll get to see Bumphis back in a Bulldog uniform next season ... and that compared to the potential drama with their head coach , one missed game for one player doesn't seem like such a big problem.