Just days before his team takes on No. 3 Georgia, Nick Saban just suffered the scary reality of COVID-19. With the Alabama head coach testing positive for the coronavirus, the Crimson Tide have to adapt as they prepare to take on one of the top teams in college football.
Will Saban’s squad remain undefeated despite his medical setback? Or can Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs score a road upset against their SEC rival?
Alabama hasn’t lost a step this season
Nick Saban lost a ton of talent to the 2020 NFL draft. Yet, even after watching Tua Tagovailoa, Jedrick Willis, Henry Ruggs, and Jerry Jeudy all become first-round picks, Alabama hasn’t lost a step this season.
Of course, the Crimson Tide still have plenty of playmakers on offense. Mac Jones has thrown for eight touchdowns and just one interception. Najee Harris has already scored 10 rushing TD after totaling 13 last season. Receivers Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle have combined for 46 catches for 712 yards and five touchdowns.
Alabama’s top-ranked scoring offense has helped the team get off to a 3-0 start. Saban’s squad dropped 52 points against Texas A&M before racking up 42 second-half points in last Saturday’s win against Ole Miss.
However, in the midst of preparing for a huge showdown against Georgia, Alabama fans got hit with a dose of bad news on Wednesday.
Saban suffers the scary reality of COVID-19
For Nick Saban, beating an opponent comes down to preparation. Yet, not even he could have prepared for his latest adversary. On Wednesday, the legendary coach confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19. Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne also tested positive.
According to ESPN, Saban is working from home and has not experienced any symptoms relative to COVID-19. The 68-year-old provided some insight on his current well-being in a Zoom call with the media on Wednesday night.
“I feel fine, so I’m not really concerned that much about my health, but you never know,” Saban said. “Look, I basically feel like when we’re in our own personal bubble here, everybody is in a much safer place. I think as soon as you travel, you get exposed to a lot more things and a lot more people.”
The six-time national champion isn’t letting his medical setback get in the way of preparing for a tough opponent. In fact, Saban monitored Wednesday’s practice via Zoom.
“I had the manager have a phone,” he said. “If I wanted a play repeated, I said, ‘Repeat that play. So-and-so messed up.’ I didn’t leave the country or anything. I’m just right down the street. And we have this technology, so it’s really unique.”
Can Alabama stay undefeated with Saban sidelined?
Nick Saban clearly isn’t letting his COVID-19 diagnosis prevent him from getting his team ready for Saturday. Still, Alabama could be in trouble no matter how much film study gets conducted. While Saban’s team boasts plenty of future NFL players, so do the Bulldogs.
On offense, redshirt sophomore Kearis Jackson has emerged as one of Georgia’s top playmakers. The 6-foot, 200-pound receiver has racked up 19 catches for 300 yards while also serving as the team’s punt returner. He and George Pickens form one of the top receiver duos in the SEC.
Meanwhile, Alabama counters with a secondary teeming with talent. Freshman Malachi Moore looks like a future early draft pick. Redshirt junior Daniel Wright should also play on Sundays sooner than later. Patrick Surtain II has yet to record an interception, but he has all the tools NFL teams look for in a shutdown corner.
However, the Crimson Tide will likely be without their biggest star. An NCAA rule will prohibit Saban from having any contact with the coaching staff if he has to remain quarantined. In fact, he will be prohibited from communicating with his team and coaches beginning 90 minutes before kickoff. Obviously, that represents a brutal blow for an Alabama team that will have its hands full on Saturday.
Can the Crimson Tide remain undefeated without their head coach on the sidelines? Or will the Bulldogs take down the No. 2 team in the country in Tuscaloosa?
Ultimately, the players will determine that outcome. But with Nick Saban suffering the scary reality of COVID-19, Alabama’s path to moving to 4-0 just became much more difficult.
All statistics courtesy of Sports Reference.