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Alabama football head coach Nick Saban missed last Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn due to a positive COVID-19 test leading up to the game. The coach announced that he has since cleared protocol and traveled with the team Friday for their regular-season finale against LSU this week. Alabama's meeting with the Tigers was originally scheduled for Nov. 14, but that game was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the LSU program.
Saban’s absence last week did not appear to impact his players negatively on the field, as the Crimson Tide rolled over Gus Malzahn’s Tigers, 42-13. The margin was Malzahn’s second-most lopsided loss since taking over the program, with the other coming during the 2018 edition of the Iron Bowl, 52-21.
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones further solidified his place at the forefront of the Heisman conversation, throwing for more than 300 yards and a career-high five touchdowns without his coach present. Saban said things were definitely different last Saturday, with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian taking his place.
"Sark did a nice job of managing things, and I sat here and felt a little helpless," he said in a postgame zoom from his home. "I could see things and yell at things and listen to (wife) Miss Terry yell downstairs. It's a little different. It still feels good to win."
On to LSU
Alabama now has its sights set on another ambush of Tigers, with the defending national champions representing one of two teams that defeated the Tide last season. It’s been a rebuilding year in Baton Rouge, and LSU now faces the No. 1 team in the country, installed as the biggest underdog for a defending champion in the last 40 years (+22.5).
The 69-year old Saban said on his radio show Thursday that he’s ready to get back in the swing of things, but Friday was the earliest he could participate in team activities thanks to the SEC’s 10-day quarantine rules. The only symptom that the head coach reported was a runny nose, and then an IV treatment he received did the trick.
"Whatever was in this plasma deal, it knocked it out in one day," he said. "From Thursday on, I've felt great and 100%. I would certainly recommend that treatment for anybody that could get it."
Not the First Time
Saban also tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this season, going into isolation on Oct. 14, but was able to test out of COVID protocol in time to coach the team’s win over then-No. 3 Georgia after having three consecutive days of negative tests leading up to the game.
A win on Saturday and the Crimson Tide will advance to the SEC Championship, likely against the Florida Gators. Florida faces Tennessee this weekend and will close out their regular season hosting LSU in the swamp on Dec. 12. The Gators hold a one-game edge over Georgia but beat the Bulldogs outright on Nov. 7 to take a commanding lead in the SEC East.