COVID, you had a good run, but you’re finished.
You made us worry when you got Tom Hanks. You made us cry when you hit Cam Newton, and you made us laugh when you infected Donald Trump.
But you done messed up this time Coronavirus. You went after Nick Saban. That was a bad, bad, bad choice. Nick Saban might be the last person you would want to piss off.
Saban isn’t exactly known for his bed side manner.
For those that don’t know Nick Saban tested positive for COVID earlier this week. He isn’t sure how he got it, saying that he wears a mask every day which I believe. If you watched the HBO special on he and Belichick you know those two are peas in a pod in terms of thinking and running football teams.
And hearing everything we have about Belichick’s handling of the Patriots current COVID crisis tells you that Saban and Alabama have probably been doing it the right way down in Tuscaloosa as well.
However, just as Cam Newton’s positive COVID test came at the worst possible time. The Friday before a game against Kansas City.
Saban’s positive test comes during Georgia week.
And outside of Joe Burrow and LSU last season, Georgia has been Alabama’s toughest competition in the SEC over the last couple of years since Kirby Smart left the warm bosom of Saban for Hedge-Trimming 101 in Athens.
So the question is, how much will Saban’s excused absence from this game effect the outcome?
Who Wants It More
Easily the biggest game we’ve had up to date this year. It’s #2 Alabama hosting #3 Georgia.
If you haven’t been paying attention this has already been a crazy year of college football. As we stand here, today, October the 16th, in the year of our Lord Two-Thousand and Twenty. Oklahoma and Texas are both unranked, North Carolina is 5th and the Big Ten and Pac-12 haven’t even begun playing yet.
What this all means is that anything could happen. And that the playoff is not a foregone conclusion of which four teams will be in it.
Now with Ohio State starting play in just over a week, that certainly does make some SEC fans scoreboard watchers of the Buckeyes week in and week out.
But the loser of this game is not out by any stretch of the imagination.
For starters, they play on the opposite sides of the SEC, smart money has these two teams meeting again in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
Plus it’s Alabama and Georgia. Their pedigree from the last few seasons will make it so that the loser most likely stays within the top ten come Monday.
In college football, it’s not always who you lost to, but when you lose. Each of these teams has six games remaining on the schedule after this week. Giving them plenty of time to show the playoff committee more dominating tape.
So who needs this one more? I mean probably Georgia. They haven’t beaten Bama since 2007 and Kirby Smart would love to be able to finally add a win over Alabama, on the road to his resume.
Mediocre Offense Against Mediocre Defense
Remember I said this has been a weird year for college football? It certainly has for Alabama and their defense. As of right now they rank 44th out of 76 teams currently playing, allowing 30.3 points per game. They just gave up 48 points to former offensive Coordinator, Lane Kiffin, who is now calling the shots at Ole Miss.
During the Saban era, defense has been the moniker of all the great Bama teams. Not so much this year.
Georgia is a slightly more respectable 23rd in points scored. Running up 36 points per game this year. Although they have been prone to some scoring droughts this year.
They trailed Arkansas at halftime in week one before exploding in the second half, as well as against Tennessee last weekend.
And perhaps it’s not fair to judge this Georgia offense. For most of the off season we believed it would be the hyped up Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman running the show before he chose to opt out.
Instead we have Stetson Bennett. Who has done well, but isn’t exactly buying his plane ticket to NYC for the Heisman ceremony yet.
So we get a matchup between two units that aren’t exactly performing to expectations here in 2020.
If I had to bet on one of these sides figuring it out this week though. Let’s just say I’m not betting against an Alabama defense.
Elite Offense vs Elite Defense
This will be an enthralling matchup.
Alabama’s offense is absolutely steamrolling opponents. Through three games they are averaging 51 points per game, that’s easily the best in the country.
Mac Jones looks like a Heisman hopeful, as well as Najee Harris. Bama continues to produce NFL level wide outs with Jaylen Waddle seemingly ready to be that next name.
So how on earth do you stop that? With Georgia’s defense would be your best bet. They are fifth in the nation allowing only 12.3 points per game against opponents like Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee.
Monty Rice dominates the middle of the field from his linebacker position and a combination of Adam Anderson and Azeez Ojulari are constantly in the backfield making life hell for a quarterback.
It’s really tough to argue who could come out on top in this matchup. Bama has yet to face a defense worth worrying about yet seeing only Missouri, Texas A&M and Ole Miss.
And it’s never a bad idea to argue on any given Saturday defense could trump offense.
I might lean with Georgia’s defense on this one, but they certainly have their hands full.
Obviously Saban is the name at the top of the credits, billboard, playbill for the Alabama Crimson Tide. And his lack of presence on the sideline will certainly be felt.
Or maybe not seeing as I write this, news just broke…
A subsequent test of Nick Saban on Thursday showed that he is negative for COVID-19, according to a statement from Alabama's head athletic trainer.
The news comes 48 hours after Saban's initial positive test and opens up the possibility that Saban could return to coach Saturday. pic.twitter.com/ziGp0X80Uf
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 16, 2020
But let’s play devils advocate shall we? Let’s say he isn’t in Bryant-Denny Stadium come Saturday night. How big of an impact is that?
Well for starters, he has left the day to day head coaching responsibilities this week to his offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Who has been a head coach at both Washington and USC prior to coming to Alabama.
Not many programs have that sort of luxury where they could turn the keys over for a moment to a former power five head coach like that. And even more, if Saban can’t be there on Saturday, Sarkisian won’t be a stranger to being the man calling some of the shots from the sideline.
Saban is also not a play caller. Some head coaches still call offensive or defensive plays. And while Saban can certainly have an input on what types of plays he wants to see on certain drives or situations. He is not the one calling the entire game.
Saban’s genius comes during the week. Setting up the game plan for the game and telling his assistants what specifically to call to achieve that game plan. Something that can all easily be done over a Zoom call.
Now sure he could be very useful for any half-time adjustments. But in the grand scheme of things the biggest impact from Saban not being on the sidelines means that the referee assigned to the Alabama sideline’s soul will go uncrushed.
Alabama is rolling into this matchup as a 4.5 favorite. I like them at that number, and without Nick Saban there I still like Alabama at home against a team that hasn’t beaten them for 13 years. Don’t overthink it, Roll Tide 35-30.
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