Alabama football: Do the Tide get back the weekend college football forgot, and at what cost?
Saturday was boring.
Like, terribly boring. Wife made a list as long as my arm of stuff to do. We got hoodwinked into going to the grocery store AND the craft store. And we learned the names of our kids for the 1st time in months.
Saturday was boring. College football — at least for those who follow the Alabama Crimson Tide — was absent from our lives for another week.
That meant trying to fill our empty lives with, well, life instead of yet another edition of Soulless Murderball. Not only was it not fun, but now Alabama and the SEC are trying to figure out exactly how to reconcile another lost home game for LSU with the fact that it likely wouldn’t mean anything to the Tigers in the long run.
No one quite knows where to go from here (other than to double-check the honey-do list …) with this 2020 college football season. Certainly, the eggheads on Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard in Birmingham are now stuck with a situation without a clear path forward.
Does the SEC figure out a way not only to reschedule LSU’s game against Alabama but also their game against Florida? And how does that affect the conference’s planned Dec. 19 title game in Atlanta?
The league indirectly addressed the 2nd question last week by announcing it would utilize Dec. 19 as a playing date for games rescheduled during the season due to the impact of COVID-19. The SEC also said it has established parameters that allow for the adjustment of game opponents as late as 5 days prior to competition.
But what the league didn’t say was what, exactly, would happen with the SEC Championship Game. Even with restricted attendance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the title game is a huge money-maker for the league due to the lucrative television deal with CBS. And with March Madness evaporating at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the SEC isn’t exactly as flush with cash now as it was at this time last year.
There was already a week — Saturday, Dec. 12 — for COVID-19 postponements built into the schedule when it was finalized earlier in the fall. Problem is, LSU already has Florida penciled in for that date after the Tigers-Gators game on Oct. 17 was postponed. With the Gators holding an edge over Georgia in the SEC East, that game could finalize the division’s representative in Atlanta.
But what about Alabama? The Crimson Tide hold a 1-game lead on Texas A&M in the SEC West (as well as the tiebreaker, thanks to a 52-24 victory over the Aggies on Oct. 3), and could wrap up the division and another trip to Atlanta in the ensuing weeks before even needing to play LSU in a makeup game.
Is it fair for the Crimson Tide to be forced to play LSU in the extra week on Dec. 19, and then be forced to take on a rested SEC East foe in the title game on Dec. 26?
The short answer is no. But the long answer is actually impossible to ascertain right now.
For the conference’s part, at least it’s trying to remain as transparent as possible. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey appeared on CBS late Saturday night in what was going to be the pregame show to LSU-Alabama to address the complexities and unknowns of the remainder of the 2020 SEC season.
“This week hit high on the stress meter,” Sankey said. “You have to adjust and adapt to the circumstances. It is a dynamic situation filled with variables we haven’t seen until this season. We have not chosen the date to make up LSU-Alabama. We are looking first to see this week’s results, which have impact on championship qualification. From there, we obviously want to get the games on Nov. 21 played as scheduled.”
Sankey then dropped a low-key bombshell, saying that the remaining games on schedules across the conference could well be blown up and the schedules adjusted to allow for the SEC to actually determine an equitable set of division champions to head to Atlanta.
“We have let our programs know that as we go later on in the season, there will be some reshuffling of games as originally planned to accommodate games that have been postponed, including Alabama vs. LSU,” Sankey said. “We can schedule all the games, so the comfort level is high there. The discomfort has always been what happens to the environment around the game — specifically related to COVID-19.”
Sankey reaffirmed confidence that the SEC believes it can get all this done, provided players and programs adhere to health standards set in place.
“What has happened this week is a reminder the need for a full and complete attention to health protocols, to personal hygiene, to social distancing, to masking, to everything we have been told as a society,” Sankey said. “If we are able to meet all those expectations, I feel we have a solid opportunity to finish the games.
“What’s important to note is that we don’t have a huge numbers of COVID-positive tests. We have a combination of factors, some of which are normal in the season. Some are opt-outs for young people that were offered in mid-July for those who weren’t comfortable in playing. And also, contact tracing after a small number of positive results. That all combines to disrupt for teams’ continuity. We had 10 teams healthy this week, and I think we can get back to 14 healthy teams soon and resume the season.”
For Alabama, that means — ostensibly — preparing for a home game against Kentucky this week, even though the possibility exists that remaining games against Auburn and Arkansas could get blown up in order for a coherent postseason matchup to materialize down the road.
Does No. 1 Alabama even get to play its annual Iron Bowl grudge match against Auburn? Does Alabama get its coveted rematch against LSU — but only by having to play during a weekend its SEC Championship Game opponent sits at home?
No one knows. Not even your wife and her list.