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Alabama's Nick Saban says Big Ten's return to play 'good for game,' but comparing teams in '20 will be 'hardest thing'

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban said it's a win for college football and makes the sport more "holistic" with the Big Ten now planning to play this fall, although he added that the tricky part would be comparing teams when they're not playing the same number of games.

"That's going to be the hardest thing this year, some teams playing more games than others," Saban told ESPN on Friday. "Even in our league, if we have somebody that has an issue and can't play a game, how do you determine when you don't have equality across the board who goes to the SEC championship game?

"It's going to be even more difficult when you take the whole country and the playoff and everybody's not on the same level playing field in terms of number of games. But I think we all have to live with the fact that it's better that everybody is playing, or at least that more than just two or three conferences are playing, and that it may just have to be more subjective this year."

Saban said he was most happy for the players in the Big Ten that the league reversed course and decided to play this fall and said he was also hopeful that the Pac-12 could work it out to play and be eligible for the playoff.

"That's my No. 1 thing, that the players get to play, but it's also good for the game," said Saban, who coached in the Big Ten at Michigan State before taking the job at LSU in 2000. "It's the way the game is supposed to be. Everybody is supposed to play. The more people that play, the better it is for everybody, the more representative it is.

"I feel bad for those players that aren't getting to play, and I don't care if they're at Kent State or Ohio State. I know how hard players work, how much they love to compete, how much being a part of the team means to a lot of the players."

Saban acknowledged that at one point during the early part of August he was fearful that there wouldn't be any college football this fall.

"I was worried and really thought we probably weren't going to play right around the time the Big Ten pulled out and made their announcement," Saban said. "To be honest, if some of the players -- Trevor Lawrence, Najee Harris and that group -- didn't come out and say they wanted to play, I'm not sure we would be playing. I think that had as much impact on playing as anything.

"I'm hopeful that we can carry on. I know the players are looking forward to it."

The SEC is scheduled to play a 10-game, league-only schedule this season that will begin on Sept. 26. Sources told ESPN that the league is discussing a model that would compute an average number of games played by all teams across the board, and that to be eligible for the SEC championship, a team would have to be within one game of that average.

Alabama opens its season on the road against Missouri. Earlier this week, Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said the Tigers would have 12 players out for the Alabama game for reasons related to COVID-19.

"It's going to be an ongoing challenge for all of us and something new every day," Saban said.