College Football Saturday: Alabama Coach Saban Looks to Beat COVID and Georgia

Posted on: October 17, 2020, 08:50h. 

Last updated on: October 17, 2020, 09:55h.

Alabama and Georgia will battle Saturday night in a top 3 duel that will give the victor a leg up in both the SEC race and, more importantly, the College Football Playoff picture. Yet, the biggest story surrounding this game, like pretty much everything else in 2020, pertains to COVID-19.

College football Alabama Georgia
Alabama running back Najee Harris vaults over an Ole Miss defender last Saturday. This week, he has a tougher hurdle as he faces Georgia, one of the top defenses in the country. (Image: Crimson Tide Photos/UA Athletics)

As of Saturday morning, it’s looking like there’s a possibility second-ranked Alabama coach Nick Saban will be on the sidelines for the host Crimson Tide, a stunning development from just a couple days ago, when he tested positive for the coronavirus. He’s reportedly tested negative twice in the last two days. One more negative test on Saturday, and he’ll likely be coaching his team.

UPDATE (12:30 pm ET, 10/17) – ESPN reports that Saban’s test Saturday came back negative, and he has been given the go-ahead to coach Saturday night.

The initial diagnosis and thought that the legendary coach would have to miss the game made the line that was trending to the Tide to quickly revert back.

On Monday, BetMGM started Alabama as a 4.5-point favorite. By Wednesday morning, the Tide were 6.5-point favorites and at -230 on the moneyline. Twelve hours later, after the news broke, the line was back to 4.5 and the moneyline odds moved to -185.

Similar moves took place at FanDuel, DraftKings, and other sportsbooks.

As of 10:30 am ET Saturday morning, MGM was giving No. 3 Georgia 5.5 points. DraftKings and FanDuel both offered 6 points on the spread.

The game kicks off at 8 pm ET and will air on CBS.

With Saban’s status in flux, FanDuel bettors are mixed. According to OddsFire, 65 percent of the spread bets and 67 percent of the spread handle are on Alabama. But 80 percent of the moneyline bets and 76 percent of the handle are on the Bulldogs, currently at +184. Bama’s straight-up odds are -230.

Bama Offense vs. Georgia Defense

The game, which very well may be a preview of the SEC Championship game in December, pits an Alabama defense looking for redemption after looking highly vulnerable in a 63-48 victory over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, the Bama offense, which racked up 723 yards in the win, will face the sternest test it’ll face all season.

In three games, the Bulldogs defense has given up 13 fewer yards than Alabama racked up all last week. At 236.7 yards per game, Georgia has the second-ranked defense in the country.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said what makes Alabama’s offense – ranked third in the country, garnering 560.3 yards per game – a challenge for his team is its versatility.

Offensively, they are not built like some of these teams that go tempo the whole time, and go hurry-up the whole time,” Smart told reporters. They can go up-tempo and they do tempo well. But they are really big, they can take shots down the field with the explosive wideouts they have. They make you defend the entire field.”

Alabama running back Najee Harris has averaged 6.7 yards a carry and has already scored 10 touchdowns in the first three games. He likely won’t be able to run that freely against a team that held Tennessee to minus-1 yard rushing last year. But Alabama’s success will likely hinge on how well he’s able to carry the ball.

COVID-19 Wipes Out Three Top 10 College Football Games

The Alabama-Georgia game was already going to be the game to watch just because of what’s at stake. However, it will garner even more attention, and likely betting action, as a number of games involving other top 10 teams in the Associated Press Top 25 poll have been postponed because of the coronavirus.

Oklahoma State, the No. 7 team, will not go on the road Saturday to face Baylor, because the host Bears had nearly 30 players test positive for COVID-19 this week. Meanwhile, an outbreak within No. 8 Cincinnati’s team forced it to postpone its game against Tulsa.

Thanks to more than 20 players testing positive at No. 10 Florida, the Gators’ Saturday home game against LSU and its game next week with Missouri were both postponed. As a result, Florida’s game against Georgia, originally set for Oct. 31, will now take place a week later.