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Jumbo Package: Tide set to play without Nick Saban for the first time since 2006

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thursday, everyone. As you might imagine, Nick Saban testing positive for the Rona is the topic du jour.

“He can call the offense. He’s done a really good job of that. We’re not going to make those kind of changes. We’ve got a very capable staff. Those guys make good game day decisions. I just kind of monitor what they do and make sure we’re staying on the rails. I think we can get that done even if I’m not available.”

Sarkisian is in his second stint working for Saban. He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst for the program before working two seasons as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. He returned to Saban’s staff last season and is orchestrating an offensive attack that is second in the SEC in total yards through three weeks.

“I can do absolutely everything here that I can do,” Saban said. “I’ll have the same exact routine. The first thing I do on Thursday morning is watch the defensive practice with the defense. Then we do two-point plays. Then I watch what we did against each other with the offense. Then I watch the offense practice and I watch special teams. Then I usually do a little write-up for two-point plays for the team. I’ll do all those things exactly like I always do it.”

While the No. 1 concern for Saban is whether the players can “still go out and focus on the game,” it seems like Alabama was able to get through Wednesday and that Wednesday practice without too many issues.

Honestly, at this stage in his career, I’m not sure how much Saban not being on the sideline will affect things. He is the CEO of the program and will continue to lead, albeit virtually, in gameday preparation. He won’t be there for halftime adjustments and that is certainly important, but most coaches will tell you that fans put far more emphasis on it than is warranted. You aren’t altering a game plan in a few minutes. For what it’s worth, Vegas thinks Saban not being present is worth about two points. Maybe the team will use his absence as a rallying cry.

Guess we will find out on Saturday, eh?

DeVonta Smith spoke about his quarterback.

“Just him seeing the right thing,” UA wide receiver DeVonta Smith said of Jones. “Whether it’s him seeing the defense do something and he tells us a route to run to adjust to it and sight adjustment things like that, just him being locked in just the things he’s seen on film, and it’s just putting us in the right position to make plays.”

Jones’ numbers also compare favorably to the starts of the nine quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy since 2010. Jones’ 79.5 completion percentage is better than seven of those, his 1,101 yards are better than eight of them and his 13.3 yards per attempt are better than all nine. His eight touchdowns are better than two and tied with four, and his one interception is similarly comparable.

Alabama is certainly going to need his best on Saturday.

Alabama beat writer Mike Rodak spoke with Dawgnation about the game.

5. Where do you see Alabama having the biggest matchup advantage over Georgia?

How about Saban vs. Stetson Bennett? Saban struck a generally positive tone after Alabama’s 63-48 win over Ole Miss but you know giving up a program-worst 647 yards to Lane Kiffin must have left him with a sour taste into this week.

Saban has a chance to make a statement on a national stage Saturday night that his defense has not fallen off from its glory days, and who better to pick on than a quarterback like Bennett who is relatively new to the SEC scene?

Georgia fans are excited about Bennett and he has done enough to win thus far, but he is somewhat limited and the stats bear that out. There is an opportunity here for a much maligned defense to get right. Of course, that will require much better execution than we saw in Oxford.

Last, Bill Belichick sent along his regards to Saban.

“I spoke with Coach Saban recently,” Belichick said Thursday. “We both talked about how much we’ve learned about the situation and some of the challenges that have come with it. I know he’s been extremely vigilant and has put a great deal of thought and effort into the care of his players.

“He shared that with me and we’ve both talked about things that we’ve done, and been helpful and so forth.”

That’s about it for now. Have a great day.

Roll Tide.