The No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will be without its head coach Saturday when it faces rival No. 22 Auburn, but Paul Finebaum believes it won’t have a bearing on the outcome of the game.
The ESPN and SEC Network analyst, who joined ESPN’s “Get Up” on Thursday, suggested it will be business as usual for the Tide, even with coach Nick Saban sidelined with COVID-19.
“I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact. Yes, this is a rivalry game,” Finebaum said, per 247 Sports. “This is the Iron Bowl. Remember, Gus Malzahn has won two of the last three against coach Nick Saban. Find someone else who can make that statement outside of Clemson, S.C. Beyond that, they have confidence in Sarkisian. He’s been a head coach at Washington and Southern Cal. They’ve been through this drill before. I think that’s the one thing that’s helping them, and also the last time, it was against Georgia. At that point before we knew Saban was coming back, Alabama had not played that well. The defense was shaky. The defense has really turned it up many steps now. There’s a much-higher degree of confidence going into this game.”
Saban tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday. Since he was experiencing mild symptoms, it appears there won’t be a false positive reprieve for Saban like there was last month before another huge game against Georgia.
“He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive,” team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson and head trainer Jeff Allen said in a joint statement. “He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will oversee preparations and lead the team on game day.
Saban said he has had a runny nose, but no major symptoms. When he tested positive ahead of the game with Georgia, he didn’t have any symptoms. Saban ended up being cleared to coach in that game after subsequent tests leading up to the game came back negative.
The two teams meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. ET) and will be live streamed on CBS All Access. CBS will televise the game.
Mark Heim is a sports reporter for The Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Heim.