In an ideal world, you wouldn’t be reading about COVID right now. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t be going into the week of the Playoff wondering how a positive COVID test could impact a national championship. In an ideal world, we’d have a more nuanced way of determining the status of an asymptomatic, vaccinated, boosted college athlete.

But here we are, living in an imperfect world.

Now would be a good time to have depth and talent galore, just in case COVID sidelines some key players.

Oh, that’s right. Alabama and Georgia have that. In spades. And fortunately for them, they aren’t playing against a team like Ohio State or Clemson, which also have double-digit 5-star players on the roster.

History suggests that having a significant talent advantage in the Playoff is a winning formula. Since the 247sports talent composite rankings began in 2015, we’ve had 7 teams ranked outside of the top 10 play in semifinal games. Those teams are 1-6, and the lone win was 2015 Clemson against Oklahoma, both of whom were outside the top 10.

Michigan and Cincinnati? They’re both outside the top 10. Jim Harbaugh’s team is No. 15 and Cincinnati is No. 54.

Alabama and Georgia? They’re at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

Is talent everything? Of course not. But in a 60-minute, do-or-die game with 4 weeks of prep, yes, talent is important. This year, depth should be that much more important.

If anything, that’s advantage Alabama or Georgia. Michigan and Cincinnati don’t have 5-star guys waiting on the bench.

Well, I take that back. Technically, former 5-star recruit JJ McCarthy is sitting on Michigan’s bench as the backup quarterback, and he’s expected to get reps against Georgia. Obviously, those reps would increase significantly if we found out that starter Cade McNamara is sidelined with COVID. If we found out Stetson Bennett IV was sidelined with COVID, Georgia has 2 former 5-star quarterback recruits (JT Daniels if he’s cleared and Brock Vandagriff) it could turn to.

And just hypothetical speaking, let’s just say that Alabama lost Bryce Young to a positive COVID test. Again, that’s hypothetical. Would you suddenly say that Alabama should lose in an all-or-nothing game to a Group of 5 team? No chance. That’s not meant as a jab to Cincinnati or to the impact of the Heisman Trophy winner. That’s reality.

Whether you like the policy or not, everyone is dealing with it. It’s like playing in poor weather in football. Does it impact the game? Absolutely. But hey, this is the hand you’re dealt. Adjust. You don’t stockpile your roster with talent just to be able to brag about it in some recruiting graphic. Roll with the punches.

Take that example from the NFL last week. Besides being without star Darius Leonard on defense, the Indianapolis Colts were down 3 starting offensive linemen and then they lost another one during their road game at the 10-4 Arizona Cardinals. They had a built-in excuse if there ever was one. Instead, the Colts found a way to win against one of the league’s best. Colts coach Frank Reich delivered a simple, but telling message afterward (via ColtsWire):

“It can be any minute for anybody. It’s a virus, so it is what it is at this point in the season. We’ll be ready for whatever we have to do. We’ll hope for the best, but every team is going through it. Every team has the same thing. That’s why nobody was making a big deal about it. Just look around the league. It’s going all over the place. We’re just going to have to deal with whatever hand we’re dealt and still find ways to win games.”

Reich gave one of the game balls to Colts general manager Chris Ballard and said “when you win a game like this, you thank the man that put the roster together” (via Zak Keefer).

Smart and Saban put their respective rosters together. They’re the general manager and the head coach. Given how both approached that, the last thing I’d expect to hear from them after a semifinal loss would be pointing the blame at anyone but themselves.

Fans oughta take the same approach with all of this.

We can be frustrated that these games are clearly going to be impacted by COVID, and the powerless NCAA isn’t going to step in at the 11th hour and fix this issue. We can also be frustrated if the CFP insists on sticking with its policy that teams who don’t have enough healthy players will have to forfeit.

For what it’s worth, I have major doubts that scenario that would present itself. That seemed more like a blanket statement that was made in an effort to force Playoff teams to adhere to strict protocols. If the CFP were to stick to that, that’s an entirely different discussion. Fans would have every right to be upset that there wasn’t any sort of wiggle room amidst the spread of what appears to be an extremely contagious omicron variant.

But in the event that games are actually played and lost on the field, Alabama and Georgia shouldn’t use COVID as an excuse. Not when you’ve got the depth advantage like that.

Now if you want to blame a loss on a bunch of bad targeting penalties, I won’t stop you.