Saturday is Alabama’s homecoming and Crimson Tide tradition and pageantry will be in full effect from the parade to the tailgating to the alums in town.
But truly, the only thing that matters this week is the football game. No. 11 Mississippi State is coming into town with its undefeated record to try and knock off No. 1 Alabama who is on a mission to get to Miami in January.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for [homecoming and all it entails],” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “We also realize that it’s only going to be a happy homecoming if we have success on the field. It’s still always coming back to that.”
Saban said Wednesday evening after practice that he told his team they’ve been playing better on the road than they have at home (even though the Tide has outscored its opponents 108-21 in Bryant-Denny Stadium).
So why is that?
“I think there’s a few more distractions at home than on the road. It’s kind of an ‘us vs. them’ mentality,” said center Barrett Jones. “For the older guys it’s a little more of a challenge, adversity thing. The cheers don’t really do much for me anymore, but I love the boos.”
Alabama hopes to finally play a “complete” game (Jones’ terminology) at home this Saturday.
Target on their backs
Mississippi State has lost to Alabama more times—74—than any other program in its history. With a 7-0 record, the Bulldogs are heading to Tuscaloosa this weekend very emotional and with a chip on their shoulder.
But to Alabama, it’s just another game.
“We know we’re going to get their best, but we expect that every week, we expect to get everyone’s best,” said a nonchalant Jones. “Mississippi State is a great team. They’ve improved on both sides of the ball form last year in my opinion. I think we’re going to have our hands full.
“That being said, we do the same thing every week: we focus on us, we focus on what we’re doing, we focus on correcting our mistakes and we feel like we’ll be all right.”
That’s what Saban always preaches—don’t worry about the other team and the external factors, just focus on you and what you can control.
“The more you listen to coach Saban talk and his philosophy, the more true they become,” Jones continued. “I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter, but it doesn’t matter as much about the other team, it’s more about you.”
Jones said when they watch film, no matter how good the opponent is, every time they’ve lost a game in previous years it’s been because they didn’t execute.
“That’s just the facts,” he said.
How good is this Crimson Tide?
There was a British reporter from Sky Sports UK at Wednesday night’s presser who asked Saban a question that would ordinarily make him explode: “How good is this Crimson Tide?”
Rather than going off on the guy like he probably would a local journalist, Saban answered politely.
“I think there’s still a lot of football left to play,” he said. “I think the full body of work that you do determines sort of what your legacy is as a team. We have some really tough games coming up starting this weekend. If we can get through that gauntlet, then I think this team will have proven one way or the other what their legacy should be as a team.”
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