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Alabama plays Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl, with COVID looming in the background

Media guide for the 2018 College Football Championship in Atlanta
Pat Duggins
Media guide for the 2018 College Football Championship in Atlanta

It took almost three days for Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Doug Marrone to join the Crimson Tide in Dallas to train for today’s Cotton Bowl. Both had tested positive for COVID-19, leaving them to attend practice remotely. Both playoff venues also closed practices at both the Cotton and Sugar Bowls to the press to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Alabama head coach Nick Saban says he’s everything he can to keep his players from getting sick.

“If there were some new protocols that would help us be safer, we’d certainly implement them,” said Saban. “But, I think we’ve tried to implement all that we know that’s worked I the past.”

The University of Cincinnati may be the “Cinderella” team of this year’s playoff season, no matter the outcome of today’s Cotton Bowl versus the Tide. The Bearcats are the first team to make the playoffs outside of the so-called power five teams with familiar names like Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Georgia, Notre Dame, and Clemson. Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell says he know he’s playing a good opponent, but so what?

“It doesn’t matter," Fickell stated. "We know, we have a good idea. If you’re going to have a shot at the title, you have to beat champs. That’s what we have. We a shot to beat the champs.”

COVID-19 kept championship organizers busy as well. The committee announced new protocols this week after more teams and more unrelated bowl games dropped out due to the virus. The new rules already say if a playoff team can’t take the field due to COVID, they’ll forfeit, and their opponent will play for the title. The revised game plan if only one team is still standing when the championship game comes, the match can be delayed for up to four days, or the surviving school can be declared the champs.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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