Nothing Changes In Preparation

Nick Saban

One of the regular questions regarding Alabama on the eve of the biggest game of the college football season is what the Crimson Tide might be doing that is different to get ready for top-ranked LSU.



The simple answer is that Alabama Coach Nick Saban prepares his team the same way every week, whether the opponent is the number one team in the nation -- as LSU is -- or a so-called cupcake.

Bama hosts the Fighting Tigers at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium with CBS televising the game. The Crimson Tide and LSU are both 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games. Alabama is ranked second in the nation.

Saban was generally complimentary of his team's preparation. Following Wednesday's practice he said, "We had a pretty good week. The players have been able to focus on the stuff we've been able to emphasize each day and really tried to keep their routine pretty constant. They've responded pretty well to that.

"I think it's critical in games like this...that the mental practice and focus and preparation are really important in terms of being able to play well and being ready to play when the game comes."

Alabama will have a practice Thursday and a walk-through Friday, but as Saban has previously pointed out, the heavy lifting is completed on Wednesday. He also emphasizes that mental preparation is not completed until game time.

Both Alabama and LSU are coming off an open date. Saban was asked if it was beneficial to have a bye the week before a big game.

"I think it's all a matter of where it falls for your team," he said. "As coaches, we all like routine. We all like you get in a routine, you feel you know what to expect each day and every player knows what to expect each day.

"But I also feel when you play eight games in a row like we did, maybe physically, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, every way you can think of, you probably need the rest, so maybe that was a good thing. Now how you play determines whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. But I think if you ask every player they'd probably say at this point in the season after eight straight weeks of playing pretty good competition that it was a welcome change that helped them recover physically and emotionally to challenges they have in the future, obviously a pretty good one coming up Saturday."

Saban said, "Your attitude is pretty much a choice. You create your own world by how you see it. You can focus on fearu and frustration or you can focus on opportunity, confidence, ability to earn solutions to issues and problems that will give you a better chance to be successful.

"That's certainly the way we want to attack the challenge against a very good team."

Saban said he expects a great atmosphere on Saturday night, and called the game a "great opportunity and why a lot of guys came to Alabama -- to play in games like this."

Last year Alabama lost three games, including one against LSU in Baton Rouge when the Tigers made the big plays in a come-from-behind 24-21 win over Bama.

"They had a lot of big plays against us last year," Saban said. "We had a lot of mental errors in the game and busted some things -- not to take anything away from their execution -- but certainly put ourselves in position where we could make some plays better, should have been in better position to make some plays. Explosive plays and turnovers are going to be really critical in this game. They made a couple last year that really changed the game, like the 65-yard touchdown and fourth-and-two, and they made some plays at the end of the game where we couldn't get the ball back down 24-21, like third and 13. They made some big plays...they made the big plays you have to make in a close game to have success. And that's why it's going to be critical in each game that we play."

Saban said there were no "injuries, problems or anything that you don't know about. Everybody has been practicing all week."

The one area where there might be a question is right guard. Saban didn't answer, saying only that Anthony Steen (who suffered a concussion against Ole Miss and didn't play in Bama's last game against Tennessee) "started all year long. Alfred McCullough started in the last game. Both those guys are practicing now and they're competing. And we'll play the best player."

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