ATHENS — Few coaches in history have towered over a program like Alabama’s Nick Saban, and that perception certainly has an impact on how many feel the Tide will fare without Saban on the sideline.
Saban won’t be on the sideline coaching No. 2 Alabama (3-0) when it plays host to No. 3 Georgia (3-0) at 8 p.m. on Saturday (TV: CBS) in Tuscaloosa on account of his Wednesday COVID-19 diagnosis.
As such, the betting line on the game has shifted from the Tide being a 6 1/2-point favorite down to 4 points, a massive swing on a contest that already has a great deal of money riding on it.
“Some of the movement is due to an overreaction by the betting public,” said Scott Cooley, the odds consultant for SportsBetting.com. “But we certainly don’t trust Steve Sarkisian standing on the sidelines and making decisions as much as we do Nick Saban.”
Sarkisian served as head coach at Washington from 2009-13, and USC in 2014-15.
Saban’s 21-0 record against former assistants includes a 2-0 mark against UGA coach Kirby Smart, with a 26-23 triumph in the 2017 College Football Playoff Championship Game, and a 35-28 win over Georgia in the 2018 SEC Championship Game.
Smart did not address Saban’s COVID-19 diagnosis with his team at the end of the Bulldogs’ Wednesday practice.
Georgia’s approach is to try to get up the same for every opponent.
But there’s clearly added incentive for Smart to defeat Saban after the past two losses — games Georgia either led or was tied in for 1:18:54 of 12o minutes.
Additionally, UGA assistant coaches Dan Lanning, Glenn Schumann and Scott Cochran all worked under Saban.
Cochran’s storyline is well-known. He was the long-time loyal strength and conditioning coach, who Saban refused to promote to being a position coach, before Smart came along last offseason and put Cochran in charge of the Bulldogs’ special teams.
Here are some of the other Saban statistics that explain why him not being on the sideline — and not being able to coach the game from home per NCAA rules — has such a great effect on how the game is perceived:
• Saban has won 27 straight games over SEC East teams, including 5 SEC Championship Games, dating back to a 35-21 loss to Steve Spurrier’s 2010 South Carolina team.
• Saban has never lost a home game at Alabama in the month of October. His 46-2 mark in October reflects two road losses.
• Saban has 85 wins against Top 25 teams, and his next win over a ranked foe will tie him with Joe Paterno for most all time.
• Saban’s .669 win percentage against Top 25 teams is best among the five coaches with the most wins vs. ranked teams: Paterno (.512), Bobby Bowden (.557), Paul “Bear” Bryant (.592), Spurrier (.529).
Play #1: The Head Coach of the home team is in quarantine, and wants to monitor the TV broadcast and (a) call in plays via cell phone to the offensive coordinator (b) use a virtual application (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to communicate with the team in the locker room.
“Rule 1-4-11-b is very specific and allows only voice communications between the press box and the team area, therefore in (a) the coach could not call into the press box or the sideline for anything related to coaching purposes.”
“This prohibition would begin at 90 minutes before the scheduled kickoff when the officiating crew assumes jurisdiction of the game and would include the time between periods until the end of the game when the Referee declares the score final.”