College football's wild, weird season limping to finish line with COVID woes and conspiracy tweets

Nothing has been easy during this college football season, so it makes sense that the run-up to the national championship game would include:

“If you’re not confident to play then SAY IT,” Kristen Saban Setas, herself a 2013 graduate of Alabama, tweeted. “I call BS on the COVID cases. They’re just worried about their QB and want him to have more time to heal. You didn’t see us postpone the rest of the season to wait for [injured receiver Jaylen] Waddle. BYE.”

That tweet was promptly deleted. You can imagine Nick called Kristen faster than Devonta Smith in the open field. Saban Setas followed it up with an apology, declaring the tweet “uncalled for and hurtful” and “a huge mistake.”

“I am ashamed and embarrassed,” Saban Setas wrote.

Good for her, but the screenshot will live forever. Especially in Columbus.

Beyond the obvious concern for the health of anyone who has contracted the virus, the last thing the championship game of a bumpy, COVID-challenged season needed was one of the teams being significantly impacted.

That’s how this season has worked though. Might as well have Kristen Saban Setas dial up the salt and spice.

Let’s start with this: Ohio State is making it clear that it wants to play on Monday and it isn’t trying to use COVID to push things back — either to get more players clear from the virus or, as Saban Setas claimed, have quarterback Justin Fields’ ribs heal.

Justin Fields and head coach Ryan Day of the Ohio State Buckeyes react after defeating the Clemson Tigers, 49-28, on Jan 1. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Justin Fields and head coach Ryan Day of the Ohio State Buckeyes react after defeating the Clemson Tigers, 49-28, on Jan 1. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

No matter what Saban Setas alleged, there is no proof that the Buckeyes are trying to hide from anyone. They just played Clemson in the national semifinal without three top lineman. They didn’t complain.

As of now, the game is on, even if Ohio State will be shorthanded in some manner — how many players, let alone which ones, will be missing won’t be fully known until Monday.

The virus will do what it will do, of course, so this could snowball on the Buckeyes. We’ll see.

That said, whatever the situation is at Ohio State (or if one breaks out at Alabama), the national title game should be staged next Monday or, if a team can’t safely field a squad, it should be forfeited by that team.

Is that a brutally bad and disappointing end to the season? Of course. This would be a nightmare. No one wants that, including Saban, who has never been one to have his team fear a challenge.

Dealing with the coronavirus though is part of the challenge of the season. Protocols matter. Discipline matters. Everything matters. If you choose to stage a season during a pandemic, then you choose to stage a season during a pandemic.

COVID making a player unable to play is no different than any other injury or academic issue or legal problem making a player ineligible. You play with what you have or you don’t play.

What shouldn’t happen is moving a game around because one team got wiped out by COVID, at least unless the other team wants to be incredibly magnanimous and grant that. It shouldn’t be required though. At this point, what’s set is set.

That the game might be more competitive with full rosters doesn’t matter. Neither does the desire for higher television ratings. And forget “fairness.” It doesn’t exist.

Postponing and rescheduling games during the regular season was one thing — those decisions were made at the conference level through a system that was agreed upon before the year began. It was likely the only way to get through this, even if schedules varied wildly — Ohio State has only played seven games while Alabama has played 12.

The final game is different. Be in Miami Gardens on Monday and be ready. That is part of the challenge. All you’ve got is all you need and if you don’t have enough that is too bad.

Again, we’ve heard nothing from Ohio State that says they see it otherwise.

What we have heard though, and you better believe every Buckeye player will hear it, was Saban’s daughter effectively calling them liars, cheats and cowards.

If you wanted the game to have a bit more anger to it, then this was a delicious development. Kristen Saban Setas essentially watched Dabo Swinney motivate Ohio State by ranking them 11th and said, “Hold my beer.”

That her dad is a coach who detests even the slightest distraction and refers to pretty much anything that doesn’t speak glowingly about the opponent as “rat poison” just makes it more fun. That tweet might test the limits of a father’s love for his daughter.

Regardless, as of now, the national title game is on for Monday, as it should be.

And whatever Buckeyes are able to play should be highly, highly motivated.

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