Nick Saban will miss the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa after testing positive for COVID-19. The Alabama head coach had a false positive earlier this season, but this one is not, as the coach is experiencing “very mild symptoms.”
With Saban out of the game, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will take over the duties as the Crimson Tide look to avenge last season’s loss at Auburn. Sarkisian has plenty of experience as a head coach, as he held the reigns at both USC and Washington.
Will there be a big impact without Saban patrolling the sideline? Speaking on Get Up! Thursday morning, ESPN SEC Network analyst Paul Finebaum said he doesn’t believe so.
“I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact. Yes, this is a rivalry game. 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 will spend the rest of the week working from home and won’t be able to communicate with the team before or during the game against Auburn (2:30 p.m. CT on CBS) due to NCAA rules.
“Sark’s been a head coach for many years and very successful at it,” Saban said earlier in the day Wednesday. “He’ll still continue to call the plays, and we won’t really change anything other than the fact that some of the administrative, game-day decisions, he’ll have to be involved in. So, we really will discuss that more. We have discussed it when I went through this 3-day hiatus before the Georgia game. We discussed exactly how we’ll do that.”
Sarkisian has led the Alabama offense to another successful start to the season. Through seven games, the Tide ranks among the top 10 teams nationally in scoring offense (49.4 ppg), passing offense (366.1 ypg) and total offense (548.6 ypg) with Sarkisian calling the plays.
“Sark has done a wonderful job,” said Saban after Wednesday’s practice. “He did a wonderful job when he was here as an analyst, went on to do what I thought was a pretty good job in Atlanta as a coordinator for the Falcons. We’re excited to get them back. Based on the body of work, in terms of what our offense has been able to accomplish last year and this year, no one could argue that he’s done a fantastic job.
“In terms of developing players, having them well-prepared for the game, inspiring them to play with a lot of effort, toughness discipline — some of the intangible things that it takes, we all probably contribute to that. I mean everybody on the team tries to contribute to that, every coach on the team. But he does a fantastic job and I think the body of work really speaks for itself.”
BamaOnLine contributed to this report.