The cloud of the coronavirus carried into the Southeastern Conference this week, and the result was two postponed games (Louisiana State at Florida, Vanderbilt at Missouri) and a positive COVID-19 test result for Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
According to ESPN, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a memo that conference schools will have revenue distribution cut by $100,000 for each week that they do not follow protocols.
Here is a look at some of Saturday’s top games:
Saban will not be in Bryant-Denny Stadium for this game, nor will he be allowed to communicate from home with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the acting head coach. He will settle for watching his high-powered offense go against one of the nation’s best defenses.
The Crimson Tide lead the nation in scoring (51.0 points per game), are third in total offense (560.3 yards per game) and average 8.7 yards per play. Their quarterback, Mac Jones, has completed 79.5% of his throws for 1,101 yards and eight touchdowns, and averages a sick 13.27 yards per attempt. Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and John Metchie have accounted for a combined 336 yards per game receiving.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, allow an average of 3.7 yards per play, 236.7 yards per game (second in FBS) and 12.3 points per game (tied for fifth). They’ve forced seven turnovers in three games. The unit is led by linebacker Monty Rice and safety Richard LeCounte.
The Tigers' task is to avoid a letdown after last week’s 42-17 rout of Miami. They are ninth in FBS in both scoring (42.3 points per game) and scoring defense (13.3). Running back Travis Etienne is averaging seven yards per carry and will be going against a defense that has allowed 189.3 yards per game against the rush.
The Yellow Jackets already have matched their 2019 total of ACC wins — two — under second-year coach Geoff Collins, the former Temple head man. Freshman quarterback Jeff Sims is a two-time conference rookie of the week and the only quarterback in the nation to have three games of at least 240 yards passing and 60 yards rushing.
Playing their first game in three weeks following a COVID-19 outbreak, the Fighting Irish defeated Florida State, 42-26, but giving up 405 yards to the Seminoles caught the attention of head coach Brian Kelly. Running backs Kyren Williams rushed for a career-high 185 yards on 19 carries last week.
Losers of three straight, the Cardinals can move the football behind quarterback Malik Cunningham (986 passing yards, nine touchdowns), but their 11 turnovers have been abysmal.
The Aggies are coming off an upset of Florida when they rolled up 543 yards of total offense behind quarterback Kellen Mond. The focus more likely will be on their defense against the Bulldogs' “Air Raid” attack that has laid an egg in the last two games since an SEC-record 623-yard performance through the air in a season-opening win over LSU. MSU quarterback K.J. Costello has thrown nine interceptions.
The Rebels of head coach Lane Kiffin have been one of the nation’s most prolific offenses this season, averaging 573 yards (second in FBS). Quarterback Matt Corral has accounted for 407 total yards per game. One of his favorite targets is tight end Kenny Yeboah, a transfer from Temple, who is averaging 23.7 yards per catch on 15 receptions. But Ole Miss is defensively challenged, and the Razorbacks will look to capitalize.
In the wake of his team’s loss to Clemson, Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz complained this week that his players are competing with an arrogance that past Miami championship contending teams have possessed, but that his unit doesn’t deserve. “We have to have respect for who we’re playing,” he said. The Panthers are in a foul mood after losing a one-point game, 31-30, last week against Boston College, for the second time this season.