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Crimson Tide photos / Georgia football coach Kirby Smart congratulates Alabama counterpart Nick Saban after the No. 2 Crimson Tide's 41-24 victory over the No. 3 Bulldogs in Bryant-Denny Stadium late Saturday.

Alabama won another big football game and Nick Saban remained undefeated against former assistant coaches.

Might the No. 2 Crimson Tide's 41-24 defeat of the No. 3 Bulldogs be in the running for the most normal event of 2020?

Saturday began with news that Saban received his third negative COVID-19 test in as many days, thus rendering last Wednesday's diagnosis as a false positive. The 68-year-old returned to the team facility and strolled the sideline for an anticipated clash that was a one-possession game until the final minute of the third quarter.

"I've got a lot of gratitude for the way our players handled all the disruption of the week," Saban said. "They really stayed focused, and I was able to keep good communication with them. I think they responded with a lot of maturity.

"The norm now is disruption. We knew that going into the season, and I'm really pleased with the way the players managed the disruption of this week."

The norm is also Alabama dominance under Saban, who is now 22-0 against former assistants, 47-2 in October with the Crimson Tide, and 55-3 in his past 58 home games. Saban also has a 28-game winning streak in Southeastern Conference cross-divisional games, and his 86 career triumphs against Associated Press Top 25 teams ties Joe Paterno for the most ever.

Saban pointed out "humility always keeps you hungry" as Alabama looks to move forward, but the footage of him dancing in the locker room proved this one had a little more to it than just going 1-0 for the week.

"It was very emotional for me," Saban said. "When they tell you that you've tested positive, it's not a good feeling. The other thing I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for is the unbelievable number of people who texted and sent prayers. It was just phenomenal, and I believe in things like that, so I do think that all helped."

After a whopping seven SEC teams eclipsed 40 points during last weekend's matchups, only the Tide surpassed that mark Saturday, and they accomplished it at the expense of the league's top defense.

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Tennessee dropped from 18th to out of the AP poll Sunday afternoon following Saturday's stunning 34-7 loss to visiting Kentucky, setting up another showing of "Groundhog Day" this week.

When the Volunteers face Alabama on Saturday inside Neyland Stadium, it will mark the 12th time in 13 years a top-10 Tide team will face an unranked Tennessee team. The lone exception was 2016, when No. 1 Alabama traveled to No. 9 Tennessee and applied a 49-10 bludgeoning, which reflected the early stages of the Butch Jones era downfall.

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Should voting cease for SEC coach of the year and the honor go directly to Sam Pittman of Arkansas?

The Razorbacks entered this season on a 19-game conference losing streak, with their last five league losses in 2019 by the average score of 47-15. Arkansas couldn't even stay on the field with Western Kentucky last November, and a 20th straight league setback occurred Sept. 26, when a surprising 7-5 halftime lead over Georgia gave way to a 37-10 loss.

Since then, however, Arkansas has defeated Mississippi State 21-14 in Starkville, suffered a controversial 30-28 loss at Auburn, and on Saturday upset Ole Miss 33-21 in Fayetteville. Pittman has staked his claim for the league's top newcomer coach, taking down the Magnolia State duo of Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin.

"I say damn too much, but I'm damn proud of this football team," Pittman said Saturday. "Who in the world wouldn't be? We'll always find something we have to get better at, and we will, but our kids deserve to be happy."

Pittman has a solid supporting cast with former Baylor and Florida State offensive coordinator Kendal Briles calling the plays, former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks guiding the offense and former Missouri coach Barry Odom as defensive coordinator. Odom's defense collected six interceptions at the expense of Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral and has racked up 13 turnovers in four games after gaining just 16 in 12 contests last year.

"Barry Odom is the real deal," Pittman said with a smile. "I was planning on getting seven (interceptions) when the game started, but we'll take six."

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It doesn't take rocket science to recognize Auburn's offense needs a midseason adjustment.

Freshman running back Tank Bigsby is an emerging star, having rushed 36 times for 257 yards the past two weeks for an average of 7.14 yards per carry. So why did he have but 16 rushes in Saturday's 30-22 loss at South Carolina, while sophomore quarterback Bo Nix was slinging it 47 times?

Nix threw 23 incompletions and three interceptions and was sacked three times, which is a lot of bad stuff compared to a Bigsby carry.

Asked why Nix and junior receiver Seth Williams weren't on the same page in Columbia, Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said, "That's a good question. You've seen when they usually have a good feel for each other."

Asked why Bigsby's 111-yard effort didn't yield more carries, Malzahn said, "He'll be a factor moving forward."

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When this season's altered calendar flipped to October, Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello was a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Sure the sample size was small, but what a sample — throwing for a league-record 623 yards as the Bulldogs took down reigning national champ LSU 44-34 during the opener in Baton Rouge. Now, the graduate transfer from Stanford may not be Leach's starter.

Costello threw for 99 yards, suffered an interception and was sacked five times Saturday when he was pulled midway through the third quarter with the Bulldogs trailing Texas A&M 28-7. The lone MSU score at that point was via a pick-six.

Enter freshman Will Rogers, who threw for 120 yards and a touchdown and was sacked once in the 28-14 loss.

"I thought he gave us a spark," Leach said. "It was a little late, but he gave us a spark and showed a lot of composure out there."

The Bulldogs have an open date this week, giving Leach the opportunity to evaluate his quarterback dilemma and other positions on an offense that has struggled like no other he has overseen.

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How about this for a parting stat?

Kentucky has allowed one touchdown in its past 26 defensive possessions.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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