College football has long been hailed by its partisans as a unique sport, from the pageantry to the traditions to the bands and, of course, the sanctity of the regular season. With so few postseason spots for so many teams, every game is critical. Before the advent of the four-team playoff, a single loss was enough in many seasons to crush championship dreams.
Then, you have the rivalries. There are no rivalries like college football rivalries. For many fans there is no better salve for a rough season than the opportunity to destroy that of their most hated opponents. The Iron Bowl is one of the sport’s iconic games, right up there with Georgia-Florida and Michigan-Ohio State. Those games have always meant more to the participants and their faithful followers.
With Notre Dame and Clemson looking like locks to make the playoff and all three of the other Power Five conferences still sporting one-loss favorites, combined with an Alabama schedule that has been heavily criticized, it is highly unlikely that the Tide will make the cut as a conference runner-up this season. Lose to Auburn and beat Georgia in Atlanta, and they’re in. Reverse the two and they are out. It’s that simple.
In other words, the Iron Bowl means absolutely nothing to Alabama this year in terms of the conference or national championships.
Keeping that in mind, it has to be tempting for Saban to treat the last game of the season like a NFL team that has clinched its spot. Why would he expose Tua Tagovailoa to an Auburn bunch that has a well earned reputation for cheap shots? With a thin linebacker corps, Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses could probably use some rest, too. Quinnen Williams has been invaluable this season. No need to risk a dirty cut block. Jonah Williams, Deionte Thompson, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Damien Harris, Deonte Brown, and Josh Jacobs are all critical and/or nicked up players who would also be good candidates to stay safely on the sideline. With the new redshirt rule, surely there are some youngsters who could use the practice.
For those of you begging to expand the playoff, particularly those stumping for auto-bids, perhaps you should take this into consideration. With eight spots available there will be zero incentive for the coach of an unbeaten power five team to risk his players during college football’s traditional Thanksgiving rivalry weekend. This will inevitably become a trend.
So, what do you think? Should Nick Saban rest the lion’s share of his starters for a meaningless Iron Bowl? Vote and leave your thoughts in the comments.
Should Alabama rest its starters against Auburn?
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