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Nick Saban: NCAA violations led to Alabama suspensions, trio could be out past College Football Playoff

We already knew that Alabama offensive guard Deonte Brown, tight end Kedrick James and offensive tackle Elliot Baker didn’t make the trip to Saturday’s Orange Bowl national semifinal between the top-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 4 Oklahoma. Now we know that they will be out even longer than that.

Coach Nick Saban announced Thursday at Orange Bowl media day that the trio of players will be out for the College Football Playoff National Championship if the Tide top the Sooners due to unspecified NCAA violations, and they could be out even longer than that, according to AL.com.

“Those things (the NCAA violations) carry certain consequences,” Saban said. “And those players knew the situation. They made poor choices and decisions.”

Brown is the most notable of the players who are out for the foreseeable future. He took over as the starter at left guard midway through the season, and started every game other than The Citadel game for offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. With Brown in, the Crimson Tide averaged 5.62 yards per carry in November and 5.41 in the win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1.

How much will Brown’s absence matter this week? Maybe not that much. The Sooners run defense ranks last in the nation in defensive red zone touchdown rate at 85.11 percent, and the defense overall has given up whopping 6.03 yards per play. If the favored Crimson Tide move on, Brown’s absence could be a much bigger deal. The Tigers and Fighting Irish are both in the top 10 in defensive yards per play and scoring defense.

Alabama and Oklahoma meet in the Orange Bowl on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. The winner will meet either No. 2 Clemson or No. 3 Notre Dame in the title game on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, California, inside Levi’s Stadium. 

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