Alabama football coach Nick Saban, athletic director Greg Byrne test positive for COVID-19

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 10/14/20

Arguably the biggest name in college football, if not in all of collegiate athletics, has tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, who has guided teams to national titles on six occasions, confirmed on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19. Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne also tested positive. 

In a statement shared by Mark Schlabach of ESPN, Saban said: 

“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19. I immediately left work and isolated at home. At this time, I do not have any symptoms relative to COVID, and I have taken another PCR test to confirm my diagnosis.”

No. 2 Alabama (3-0) is preparing to host the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (3-0) on Saturday evening in what is, to date, the most anticipated game of the college football campaign. Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will lead in-person practice sessions as Saban works from home.

Byrne added: 

“Today, I received notice that my COVID-19 test from this morning came back positive. Upon hearing the news, I immediately entered self-isolation and will remain at home and follow all guidelines. We’ve been diligent about mask wearing and social distancing from the start and want to continue to encourage you all to take the necessary precautions to help stop the spread of this virus for yourself and those around you.”

Saban joins Kansas’ Les MilesArizona’s Kevin SumlinFlorida State’s Mike NorvellArkansas State’s Blake Anderson and Toldeo’s Jason Candle on the growing list of FBS coaches who have tested positive for the virus from the early days of the pandemic through and beyond the start of the football season. 

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Are Tua Tagovailoa’s injury issues worse than previously believed?

It’s no secret Alabama Crimson Tide standout quarterback Tua Tagovailoa dealt with a handful of injury woes during his collegiate career. Multiple NFL insiders fear Tagovailoa may be even less healthy than assumed. 

On Wednesday’s edition ESPN’s “Get Up,” former NFL head coach and ESPN analyst Rex Ryan compared the one-time national champion starter to New Orleans Saints signal-caller and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. 

“Tua, to me, that is Drew Brees,” Ryan said. “He’s accurate as heck like Drew Brees. He moves the pocket like Drew Brees.”

Ryan added: “Is there risk involved? Oh my gosh, is there a risk involved.

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By Zac Wassink | Last updated 4/9/20

How did Alabama React To Sark Being Hired


Written by Rainier Sabin at AL.com

When it was revealed to the team last week that Steve Sarkisian had been selected as offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s replacement, Alabama’s players reacted with indifference and nonchalance.

The first thing that came to mind?

“Go to practice,” left tackle Cam Robinson said.

Since they arrived on campus in Tuscaloosa, Robinson and his teammates have been drilled to ignore external factors and operate with blinders. This is “The Process” at work.

“It doesn’t matter who is calling the plays or who we have as a coordinator. Just focus on the task at hand,” said Robinson. “As long as we stay focused and we stay committed to what we want to do and what we’re trying to do, it doesn’t really bother us too much.”

Sarkisian’s presence has been more noticeable at practice since the news dropped. On Sunday, he was watching the running backs intently. Then, he sidled up to the receivers and started chatting with ArDarius Stewart.

“He’s been around the offense as much as any coach,” said running back Damien Harris. “He gets along with us pretty well. But we’re not worried about that right now. That’s next year and we’ve still got football left to play this year.

Sarkisian’s promotion happened on the same day top-ranked Alabama returned to practice as it began preparations for its College Football Playoff semifinal game against No. 4 Washington on New Year’s Eve. When it was made official, the Tide didn’t deliver a grand announcement. Instead, a news release was sent at 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

The public relations strategy tied to Sarkisian appointment reflected the cool nature with which the players have responded to the move.

“I’ve seen him around at practice and say what’s up to him every now and then,” left guard Ross Pierschbacher. “As far as individually meeting with him one on one, I haven’t done that yet and I think he brings a lot of knowledge to our offense and well-respected offensive mind as well. I’m pretty excited to work with him next year.”

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SEC Bowl Projections


Written by Adam Sparks at The Tennesseean.com

Twelve of the SEC’s 14 teams will play in bowls, but pairing a school with a game can get complicated.

After the top three bowls, the next six SEC bowls are ranked evenly in the same group, including Music City Bowl, Outback Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl, Belk Bowl, Liberty Bowl and Texas Bowl. After that, the Birmingham Bowl gets the next choice, followed by the Independence Bowl.

Here are the possible bowl scenarios and why, listed in order of first choice to final choice.

Peach Bowl

Atlanta, Dec. 31

Who goes and why?: Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) or no SEC team. The Peach Bowl is the College Football Playoff semifinal this year. If Alabama wins the SEC title game, it’s in as the No. 1 seed.

Sugar Bowl

New Orleans, Jan. 2

Who goes and why?: If Alabama wins the SEC Championship Game, Auburn (8-4, 5-3) automatically gets the Sugar Bowl bid as highest remaining team in the College Football Playoff rankings. If Florida (8-3, 6-2) upsets Alabama in the SEC title game, then the Gators get the Sugar Bowl as the conference champion. Alabama would still make the playoff.

Citrus Bowl 

Orlando, Fla., Dec. 31

Who goes and why?: Florida or LSU (7-4, 5-3). The Citrus Bowl gets first pick after the College Football Playoff and Sugar Bowl selections. Florida is the likely choice because Gainesville is about 100 miles away from Orlando, and the Gators are the SEC East Division champion. But Florida played in the Citrus Bowl last year, so LSU could be picked to avoid a repeat.

Outback Bowl

Tampa, Fla., Jan. 2

Who goes and why?: LSU or Florida, whichever is not chosen by the Citrus Bowl. Both teams would bring plenty of fans, and LSU has the built-in storyline of kicking off the Ed Orgeron era as the permanent coach rather than interim.

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Reaction From New College Football Rankings.


Written by George Schroeder at USAToday.com

We begin with the requisite public service announcement. We’re inching closer to the final set of College Football Playoff rankings — or the only poll that matters. By the selection committee’s own admission, they’re all meaningless until then. Unless, of course, the goal is to rile up everybody (or as they would put it, helping to drive the conversation about college football).

But even these preliminary rankings provide a window into the collective thinking of the committee.

We get a chance each week to see some of the factors that will matter on Dec. 4, when they produce that final Top 25, looking at complete bodies of work, applying the various tie-breakers if and when warranted, and setting the four-team field for the Playoff.

Each week’s ranking inevitably raises some questions. We’ll answer a few of them.

What should the rankings have been?

1. Alabama

2. A Win is a Win

3. OK With That

4. This is fine

5. In Good Shape

6. Just Win

7. Angry About No. 2

8. Nightmares About No. 2

9. We’re No. 9? We’re No. 9!

10. A Loss is a Win, Too

Why is Ohio State ranked so far ahead of Penn State, and would it stay that way if Penn State won the Big Ten?

It’s clear the selection committee thinks Ohio State is a no-doubt No. 2. Although Penn State beat the Buckeyes, the teams’ résumés remain dissimilar (starting with records: Ohio State is 10-1, Penn State is 9-2).

“Does the selection committee see a small margin of separation this week between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 7 Penn State? We do not,” committee chairman Kirby Hocuttsaid.

Fair enough. But what happens if Penn State wins the Big Ten East (which happens if the Nittany Lions beat Michigan State and Ohio State beats Michigan this weekend) and then the Big Ten championship?

The committee would presumably be no less impressed with Ohio State, which would have beaten the team ranked No. 3 this week. But Penn State would be 11-2, with two supposedly important factors: a head-to-head win against Ohio State and a conference championship. Maybe the committee would decide both Big Ten teams deserved to be in the Playoff. But if there was room only for one? Hmmm.

All of which means some committee members might be very, very tempted to pull very hard for Michigan this week. A win against Ohio State would scuttle a potential controversy.

What about USC?

The trendy thing, at least on Tuesday, was to pose this question: Which team would you least like to play? The answer from many: Southern California. The Trojans have rebounded from a very rough start to win seven in a row. They’re clearly very talented, and after a change at quarterback, they’ve seemingly grown more formidable each week.

Put them in the Pac-12 championship (they’d need Utah to beat Colorado), watch them win the league and — well, what if?

Sorry, you can’t wash away those three losses (including a 52-6 loss to Alabama in the opener). These teams only play 12 or 13 games. The eye test is very important. But so is the actual body of work, the games you played and won or lost.

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What Does the Future Hold For Ed Orgeron


Written by Matt Youmans at Las Vegas Review Journal

In one month, Ed Orgeron has become a Cajun sensation. He’s a barrel-chested guy who speaks with a Louisiana tongue, bold and full of bluster. It’s not an act, either, because he was born on the Bayou.

Orgeron and Nick Saban are as identical as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in the movie “Twins.” Saban is a small, detail-obsessed dictator with a sour disposition. But Saban is admirable because he wins, the most important trait in any football coach.

Orgeron is winning, too, but it’s a small sample. He’s 3-0 as Louisiana State’s interim coach. If he goes to 4-0 by beating Saban and Alabama on Saturday night, trash the interim tag.

In a duel that could determine Orgeron’s future and throw the College Football Playoff picture into chaos, the Tigers are 7½-point underdogs to the top-ranked Crimson Tide. It’s a night game in Baton Rouge, and a fiery coach is leading a confident home ’dog. Even to those who despise the hype for the Southeastern Conference, this is must-see TV (interrupted at commercial breaks by political attack ads.)

“Nick has brought some great teams into Baton Rouge and had trouble,” The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall said. “I think this could be a very tough game for Alabama.”

Initially, this appeared to be a tough game. In May, when South Point sports book director Chris Andrews opened the line, LSU was a 3-point favorite. The Tigers were loaded with talent, led by running back Leonard Fournette, a top Heisman Trophy candidate.

But then the Tigers lost to Wisconsin and Auburn. Fournette was injured, and Les Miles became the team’s former coach in late September. It suddenly appeared to be a much easier game for Alabama.

The Tide, 8-0 straight up and 6-2 against the spread, were double-digit favorites in each game to this point. Alabama had some trouble against Mississippi and Texas A&M, but Saban found ways to survive.

Saban is winning with a fearless defense, as always, and with a freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who’s a better runner than passer. But how great is that defense, and how tested is the freshman?

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College Football Rankings Released


Written by Jerry Palm at CBSSports.com

With four weeks left in the regular season, the first College Football Playoff Rankings of 2016 were released Tuesday night with Alabama taking the No. 1 spot followed by Clemson, Michigan and Texas A&M from 2-4. Undefeated Washington checked in at No. 5.

As for these first rankings, there are a few surprises — just nowhere near the top.

We will get to those surprises in a moment, but first, let’s start with the usual disclaimer. Nothing in these rankings is meaningful in terms of where teams may be ranked at the end of the season. It is possible that the current top four teams could win out and still not be the top four teams at the end. Even if they are, the order may change. This isn’t like the top 25 polls where you usually hold your position unless you lose.

Here is the top 25 as voted on by the committee. Analysis from CBS Sports playoff and bowls expert Jerry Palm, who nailed the top eight teams in order in his predicted rankings, can be found below.

1. Alabama (8-0)
2. Clemson (8-0)
3. Michigan (8-0)
4. Texas A&M (7-1)
5. Washington (8-0)
6. Ohio State (7-1)

7. Louisville (7-1)
8. Wisconsin (6-2)
9. Auburn (6-2)
10. Nebraska (7-1)
11. Florida (6-1)
12. Penn State (6-2)
13. LSU (5-2)
14. Oklahoma (6-2)
15. Colorado (6-2)
16. Utah (7-2)
17. Baylor (6-1)
18. Oklahoma State (6-2)
19. Virginia Tech (6-2)
20. West Virginia (6-1)
21. North Carolina (6-2)
22. Florida State (5-3)
23. Western Michigan (8-0)
24. Boise State (7-1)
25. Washington State (6-2)

You should not be surprised to see a one-loss team (Texas A&M) ahead of a major conference undefeated team (Washington). There have been only three weekly rankings in the first two seasons of the CFP in which all of the unbeaten Power Five teams were atop the rankings. Those were the first two of 2014 (Mississippi State and Florida State) and the final one last year (Clemson). In fact, the only time there have been three major undefeated teams at the top of the rankings was the first one of last season, when Clemson, LSU and Ohio State topped the list. At that time, there were still eight Power Five teams without a loss. “Undefeated” doesn’t mean much to the committee.

In fact, the committee ranked the undefeated teams in the only justifiable order. Alabama has the best schedule and has been largely dominant. Clemson’s schedule isn’t far off from that of the Crimson Tide, and the Tigers have the best road win of any of these teams. In basketball terms, Michigan is what we would call a “home court hero.” It has a weaker schedule overall than Alabama and Clemson, and it is very home heavy, although there are a couple of wins against teams in the top 12. Washington’s strength of schedule to this point isn’t Baylor-level bad, but it is way behind the other teams on this list. The win at No. 16 Utah is good, but the Huskies’ nonconference schedule was pretty bad and Stanford and Oregon have let them down some.

The one-loss teams are relatively easy to parse through also. Texas A&M and Ohio State have played similar schedules and each has at least one big road win, but the Aggies lost at Alabama and the Buckeyes lost at Penn State. Louisville’s schedule so far is considerably weaker, and the Cardinals only win of note is their destruction of Florida State.

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AP Poll for Week 10 of CFB Season


Written Joe Boozell at NCAA.com

Just win, baby.

That’s the lesson we can glean from the Week 10 AP Poll. Hardly revolutionary, but true nonetheless.

Three top-10 teams from last week’s rankings lost on Saturday, and as a result, two new schools joined the elite of the elite. Meanwhile, Clemson and Louisville, despite winning ugly…. well, won. And that’s what matters. This late into the college football season, style points don’t mean as much as they did early in the year. Survive and advance. That’s the objective.

Louisville needed late heroics from Lamar Jackson in order to beat an underwhelming Virginia squad, while Clemson allowed Dalvin Cook to run wild but still found a way to defeat Florida State. Neither team budged in the Week 10 rankings, and that’s a boon to the ACC’s playoff hopes. Barring a monumental collapse from the Cardinals and the Tigers, the ACC should be represented in the College Football Playoff.

Speaking of which, with the first Playoff rankings set to be released on Tuesday, it’s time to start thinking about potential scenarios. Plenty happened in Week 9; four previous unbeatens lost, all of whom likely needed to run the table in order to have realistic national title hopes. Two of those schools were from the Big 12: West Virginia and Baylor. Their semifinal dreams aren’t doomed, but they’ll need quite a few dominoes to fall their way near the top in order to have a chance to play for the championship.

Zoom out of the College Football Playoff race, and there is quite a bit of shuffling going on in the middle of the rankings. Florida State fell a whopping seven spots despite losing to the No. 3 team by three points. Undefeated Western Michigan keeps creeping on up; the Broncos are now the No. 17 team in the country. How far can they rise by the end of the season? LSU and Auburn, who both disappointed in September, are now top-15 teams; the latter is knocking on the top 10’s door. And Wisconsin, despite its two losses, finds itself ranked eighth with an inside track at the Big Ten West crown after a gritty win against Nebraska.

And without looking, can you guess who the top-ranked team in the Big 12 is?

Why hello, Oklahoma. The Sooners jumped four spots after beating Kansas on Saturday night, and Baker Mayfield seems to have found his footing after a rocky start. OU’s two losses don’t look as defensible as they once did; Ohio State almost fell to Northwestern in Week 9 after a loss to Penn State in Week 8, and Houston appears to be unraveling.

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Week 3 and the College Football Chaos it Could Cause


Written by Heather Dinich at ESPN.com

Week 3 is the kind of lineup that could throw the College Football Playoff contenders into the air just to see where they land.

Several one-loss teams, namely Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Ole Miss, are facing must-win situations. But there are also games that could start a chain reaction of chaos. Here’s a look at how each conference could be impacted by the biggest games of the week:

PAC-12

Potential chaos: USC beats Stanford

That’s all it would take to start a tailspin of confusion in the Pac-12 pecking order. USC was manhandled and embarrassed in its season opener against defending national champ Alabama, but everything is still on the table as far as the Pac-12 title goes. The Trojans could get right back into the CFP conversation, and the committee wouldn’t leave out a one-loss Pac-12 champ with a lone loss to Alabama in the opener. (Granted, USC won’t win the Pac-12 if it plays against Stanford the way it did against Bama). Stanford’s season has typically been a reflection of the outcome of its game against USC. A win last year was parlayed into a Pac-12 title. A loss in 2014 sank Stanford into a five-loss season. After finishing No. 6 last year, David Shaw’s crew knows how tough it is to crack the top four as a two-loss team. With back-to-back road trips to UCLA and Washington looming, plus a trip to Notre Dame on Oct. 15, Stanford needs to win its home games.

ACC

Potential chaos: A three-way tie in the Atlantic Division

The scenario: Louisville beats FSU, Clemson beats Louisville, and FSU beats Clemson. (Scratching your head? The selection committee will be, too.) If Louisville is for real — and who really knows after routs against Charlotte and Syracuse — the ACC’s Atlantic Division race could be a jumbled mess of one-loss teams, with Clemson, Louisville and FSU all playing each other. It starts Saturday, when No. 2 Florida State travels to Louisville, a game that features the two new Football Power Index favorites to win the ACC. Should the Cards win, FSU will need to hope Clemson fares better and beats Louisville, but the Noles then couldn’t afford to lose at home to Clemson. Head-to-head results are one of the criteria the selection committee considers when evaluating comparable teams, but this chaos might also be the league’s best hope at having two teams in the CFP.

SEC

Potential chaos: Alabama loses at Ole Miss and Auburn beats Texas A&M

If that happens, the SEC West will enter Week 4 with six of its seven teams already having a loss (assuming Arkansas starts 3-0 after a win against Texas State). Oh, it’s possible. Ole Miss has beaten Alabama in each of the past two seasons, and while that hasn’t kept the Tide out of the playoff, a loss to Ole Miss this year would definitely put the pressure on throughout the rest of the season, especially if Auburn finds a way to enter the conversation. The Tigers lost a close one to Clemson, but that has zero impact on their SEC title chances, and any team with a shot to win the SEC has a chance at the committee’s top four. Auburn still has a lot to prove but seems to have found its offensive identity with Sean White at quarterback. ESPN’s FPI is basically considering this one a toss-up, projecting Auburn with a 54.5 percent chance to beat A&M.

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College Football Rankings Week 3


Written by Ryan Cooper at NCAA.com

Sometimes when you win, you really lose.

That old adage was on display in the third installment of the AP poll, particularly when it comes to the Clemson Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs.

The two teams dropped three and seven spots, respectively, despite taking care of business with a win each. But this early in the season when early impressions are everything, it’s not always what you do as much as how you do it.
It’s still way too early in the season to put any stock into rankings reflecting the possible College Football Playoff picture, but it’s good that voters are holding teams accountable for not starting the season well. A common criticism of preseason rankings is that they give one team a leg up without having to earn it. That problem might be improving, as shown by the drops this week and the huge rises teams like Houston and Wisconsin made after signature Week 1 victories.Of course, had the Tigers lost to Troy or the Bulldogs to Nicholls, the fall in the rankings would have been a lot more catastrophic than that. But still, both wins were too close for comfort, and the teams were punished by the voters as a result. Clemson’s 30-24 win caused it to fall from No. 2 to No. 5, while Georgia dropped from ninth to 16th after squeaking by Nicholls 26-24.

This week didn’t feature a lot of change, in large part because of the way the Week 2 schedule was put together. Not one matchup on the docket had two ranked teams going against each other, so, with the exception of a couple of upsets, the top 25 did very well.

The teams ranked in the top 25 last week went a combined 21-2 on Friday and Saturday. Stanford and Michigan State were off, while No. 15 TCU and No. 22 Oklahoma State were upset and removed from the rankings as a result.

Sliding into their spots were No. 23 Florida, which rejoined the fray after being dropped last week, and No. 24 Arkansas, which was responsible for the aforementioned TCU loss.

Otherwise, there wasn’t a ton to write home about. Each team in the top five behind Clemson shuffled up a spot, making Florida State the new No. 2 with Ohio State and Michigan sitting behind.

For the third week in a row, Michigan received one first-place vote. That voter, as it has been each time, is Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News.

It’s certainly a bold move to have the Wolverines at the top over Alabama or Florida State, which got the other 60 votes (56 to the Tide, four to the Seminoles). Michigan has a plus-97 point differential through two games, but those games did happen to be against Hawaii and Central Florida. Still, it’s very reasonable to think that Michigan could take care of the Big Ten this year and make its Playoff debut, possibly with a perfect regular-season record.

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