sunny.png
Monday October 19th, 2020 7:59PM

No. 2 Alabama braces for No. 3 Georgia's visit minus Saban

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

The bombshell news came three days and change before college football's biggest regular season game of the year.

No. 2 Alabama's 68-year-old coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of Saturday night's Southeastern Conference showdown with third-ranked Georgia.

Barring negative tests leading up to the game, for the first time since arriving in 2007, Saban's scowling presence will be absent from Alabama's sideline during a game. And it just happens to be a top-5 matchup between the SEC's only teams to emerge unbeaten from the first three weeks.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges this year," Saban said. “Our guys have showed great maturity in how they’ve handled all these challenges. I’m sure they’ll handle this in a very positive way as well.”

Saban was still scrutinizing practices, presiding over meetings and sticking to his normal work routine ahead of the game. Just from home.

He left offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian at least nominally in charge within the football building. As of Thursday afternoon, it wasn't clear who would be running the show from the sideline. Sarkisian, a former head coach at USC and Washington, will still be calling the plays regardless, Saban said, keeping things as normal as possible.

Sarkisian already had his hands full. He'll lead the nation's top scoring offenses against one of college football's best defenses. Georgia coach Kirby Smart is a former Alabama defensive coordinator and has built a talent-rich roster that rivals Saban's and a defense that resembles the Tide's old dominant groups.

"This is what college football is all about, so we are looking forward to the matchup,” Smart said.

Alabama is coming off a 63-48 win over Mississippi, giving up the most yards in program history. The Tide face a different style of offense from the Rebels' fast-paced system.

Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett makes his first start on the road in a huge game, but offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer feels he has the mentality to pass that test.

”Stets is going to go out there and compete, and he’s going to give you everything he’s got on every play, and he’s not going to fold on you when things get tough,” Salyer said.

DEFENDING ALABAMA

Tide quarterback Mac Jones and his array of playmakers are averaging 51 points a game and include one of the nation's most dangerous receiving groups. But Georgia presents the biggest test by far with the nation's top run defense and No. 2 scoring defense. The Bulldogs counter with players like safety Richard LeCounte, linebacker Monty Rice and pass rusher Azeez Ojulari.

FACING SABAN

Saban is 21-0 against his former assistants-turned-head coaches, though it remains to be seen if this will be counted toward that total. But Smart’s teams have put up quite a fight both in the SEC championship and national title games, and his program is farther along than most of the others.

“We have an established program, they have an established program,” Saban said. "There’s two pretty good teams gonna go at it.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

In a game that appears very evenly matched, special teams could be the difference. Alabama has one of the nation's most dangerous return men with Jaylen Waddle, but he seldom gets the ball delivered his way. “He is as dynamic and electric as I have seen,” Smart said.

Georgia has the nation's leading punter Jake Camarda and Jack Podlesny has fared well in replacing Lou Groza Award winner Rodrigo Blankenship. Also, Georgia special teams coordinator Scott Cochran was a longtime strength and conditioning coach under Saban.

BEATING THE EAST

Alabama has won 27 consecutive games against teams from the SEC East, but has been pushed to the brink in both matchups against Smart's Bulldogs. The Tide rallied to win the national championship game in overtime in January 2018 and came back again to win the SEC championship game the following season. Both comebacks were led by backup quarterbacks in Atlanta (though those QBs were Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa both times).

RUNNERS

Alabama tailback Najee Harris is leading the league with 347 yards and 10 touchdowns, and faces a defense allowing just 38 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs haven't given up a rushing TD. They also have a strong runner in Zamir White, who has run for four TDs and could be key to keeping the ball from the Tide offense.

___

More AP college football: http://apnews.com/Collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, College Sports, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - College Football
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: Georgia workers at voting prep center have virus
Election officials said nearly a quarter of the workers in a warehouse where election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied for Georgia’s most populous county have tested positive for COVID-19
4:01PM ( 17 minutes ago )
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia takes center stage in SEC
The mid-week news that Alabama coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 added a challenging backdrop for the season’s first top 5 matchup
3:57PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Jewish family's painting looted by Nazis in 1933 is returned
A painting of two young, 19th-century skaters that was looted by Nazis from a Jewish family in 1933 and recently discovered at a small museum in upstate New York has been returned after 87 years
3:55PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
After NIL, next NCAA challenge is restructuring Division I
As the NCAA moves toward historic changes that will empower athletes more than ever, the next big reform to college sports could be restructuring Division I
3:35PM ( 43 minutes ago )
Newton, Gilmore return, putting both on track to play
Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore returned to practice for the first time since testing positive for the coronavirus, putting both players on track to be in the lineup when New England hosts Denver
3:31PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Cincinnati-Tulsa postponed due to Bearcats' COVID-19 issues
Cincinnati's weekend game at Tulsa has been postponed because of positive COVID-19 tests among Bearcats players
3:15PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Falcons shut facility after 2nd positive; Vikings game on
The Atlanta Falcons have shut their facility following one new positive test for COVID-19
12:57PM ( 3 hours ago )
Minus Saban, No. 2 Alabama set to meet No. 3 Georgia
No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia are set for the biggest game of the Southeastern Conference regular season
12:45PM ( 3 hours ago )
No. 1 Clemson hopes to avoid letdown against Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech will play for its first win over a top-ranked team since beating Virginia in 1990 when the Yellow Jackets face No. 1 Clemson
12:32PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Football
Saban, Alabama AD Greg Byrne test positive for COVID-19
Alabama coach Nick Saban and athletic director Greg Byrne have tested positive for COVID-19, four days before the Southeastern Conference’s biggest regular-season showdown
6:11PM ( 22 hours ago )
In unusual SEC season, defense is becoming a punchline
The Southeastern Conference's reputation for fielding ferocious defenses is taking a hit in this most unusual and pandemic-altered season
5:18PM ( 23 hours ago )
Virus wreaking havoc on SEC due to positive COVID-19 tests
The Southeastern Conference has had to postpone two games in the last three days because of positive COVID-19 tests
4:01PM ( 1 day ago )
College Sports
Georgia's McBath seeks 2nd win in once-famed GOP district
Karen Handel is looking for Republicans to mobilize in Georgia’s 6th District, which was once an incubator of high-profile Republicans
2:31PM ( 1 hour ago )
Candidate who embraces QAnon endorses Loeffler for Senate
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia enthusiastically accepted an endorsement from Marjorie Taylor Greene, a congressional candidate who has embraced baseless QAnon conspiracy theories and has espoused racist views
1:40PM ( 2 hours ago )
11-spot: Dodgers huge 1st in 15-3 win over Braves in NLCS
Max Muncy’s grand slam capped a record-setting 11-run first inning for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who coasted to a 15-3 rout of the Atlanta Braves that cut their National League Championship Series deficit to 2 games to 1
12:09AM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
The Latest: Champions Hockey League cancels upcoming season
One of Europe’s leading ice hockey competitions has canceled its 2020-21 season because of the coronavirus pandemic
1:57PM ( 2 days ago )
Smart hopes resilient Georgia starts strong against Alabama
Third-ranked Georgia has shown impressive resiliency in second-half comeback wins over Arkansas and Tennessee
1:35PM ( 2 days ago )
The Latest: No. 10 Florida has five new COVID-19 cases.
No. 10 Florida has five new COVID-19 cases
1:24PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Sports - College Football
The Latest: Georgia workers at voting prep center have virus
Election officials said nearly a quarter of the workers in a warehouse where election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied for Georgia’s most populous county have tested positive for COVID-19
4:01PM ( 17 minutes ago )
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia takes center stage in SEC
The mid-week news that Alabama coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 added a challenging backdrop for the season’s first top 5 matchup
3:57PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Jewish family's painting looted by Nazis in 1933 is returned
A painting of two young, 19th-century skaters that was looted by Nazis from a Jewish family in 1933 and recently discovered at a small museum in upstate New York has been returned after 87 years
3:55PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Mother convicted in deaths of 2 newborns left in trash bags
A jury has convicted a South Carolina mother in the deaths of two of her newborns, who were thrown into trash bags after they were born 13 months apart
3:50PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Choose your channel: Dueling town halls for Biden, Trump
Addressing supporters separately before their dueling town halls, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are agreeing on one big thing: The other guy is lying all the time
3:50PM ( 28 minutes ago )