Alabama Football News

Through months of doubts and negatives, the COVID-19 pandemic may have produced a long-standing positive for Alabama and SEC football

Nick Saban looks on at Alabama fall practice
Photo by Kent Gidley of Alabama Athletics

Starting in the month of March, there was a growing fear that college football would not happen in the fall.

When the Coronavirus pandemic initially hit the realm of athletics, the primary focus was public health, safety and wondering how quickly could a vaccine be provided. As the months progressed and cases increased, more concerns appeared on the faces of consumers that enjoy the collegiate gridiron game. It looked very bleak for a while and people got to a point where if football did happen, they would be okay with their favorite team playing against lower-tier competition.

Football has a way of bringing people together and at the end of the day, the lone thing everyone wanted was live sports. With the Pac-12 and Big Ten canceling their seasons, things really started to look bad.

However, Greg Sankey of the Southeastern Conference kept a positivity about himself. He pushed the start of the SEC season back to Sept. 26, to observe what other conferences would do.

RELATED: Alabama picked to win SEC Championship and 13 players were named to All-SEC team

Despite the Big Ten retracting its thoughts and wanting a season, going to a 10-game, conference-only look may have produced the biggest positive for Alabama football and SEC football moving forward.

Depending on how this season goes, a 10-game SEC schedule might become the norm for each school in the conference — especially if the entertainment value is high on it.

Not only is there a need for competitive games for fans, television contracts and overall ratings, but Nick Saban has always been one for the SEC generating more of a challenge. He has been supportive of a nine-game conference schedule for the longest of time, but a 10-game look has him very excited. During press conferences, the Alabama head football coach has said he would ‘absolutely’ be in favor of expanding the SEC schedule to 10 games permanently.

“A player should not come to the University of Alabama and not have the opportunity to play Florida, Georgia or other teams from the SEC East,” Saban said.

Coach Saban said the opportunity to play 10 conference games is challenging, but it is also great for players to compete.

*Nick Saban talks 10-game SEC schedule at 5:45 mark

“As I look at the AP poll or whatever, we are playing five, six, seven teams mentioned in that,” he said on Monday. “I have always been an advocate of playing more games so that every player gets to play every team in the SEC East. This is certainly going to create that opportunity to a large degree for a lot of our players, but I can’t really answer how it will impact the future. I think a lot of it will be determined by how this season goes.”

Alabama’s opponents in the AP Top-25 for this season include Georgia (No. 4), LSU (No. 6), Auburn (No. 8), Texas A&M (No. 10), Tennessee (No. 16) and Kentucky (No. 23). Should it navigate this schedule without a loss, the Crimson Tide would capture its seventh SEC Championship under Saban and punch its ticket to the College Football Playoff after missing it in 2019.

RELATED: Christian Barmore’s availability for Missouri game is still in question

Regardless of a reduced capacity of fans in stadiums, if SEC football can generate massive ratings, high competition, high drama and entertaining matchup to capture consumers, moving to a permanent 10-game conference schedule becomes a possibility.

COVID-19 had the world shaken up for much of this year, but it did not stop football from being played. Alabama will face Missouri on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. CT via ESPN.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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