Before Alabama started practice earlier this month, there was a major surprise when it was announced…
Saban Says Bowl Practice Helpful
"I think everybody is happy that we just got finished with our last practice and we have only a walk-through (Wednesday)," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said following the Crimson Tide's two-hour workout in the Louisiana Superdome Tuesday.
Alabama, 11-1 and ranked third in the nation, will meet Oklahoma, 10-2 and ranked 10th, in the Sugar Bowl in the Superdome Thursday. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. CST with ESPN televising the game.
Saban said there have been advantages to the practice time, first in Tuscaloosa and since Friday in New Orleans.
Playing in a bowl game, Saban said, "is a great opportunity to help your team. You get a lot of extra practice. It helps a lot of young people.
"But at the end of it, you've practices a lot; more than you ever practice for a (regular season) game.
"I think the players sometimes get a little bit tired of practice and I'm sure both teams are looking forward to playing in a really good game with two good teams."
Another advantage is that some players who were injured at the end of the year have a chance to heal. There will have been 33 days between the final regular season game and the Sugar Bowl, and fewer than half those days were spent on the practice fields.
"I do think that we have more young guys that have developed during this time," Saban said. "HaHa Clinton-Dix being much more healthy because he did get scoped (post-season arthroscopic surgery on his knee) and he's had plenty of time to get over that. That's been a real positive for us.
"Landon Collins is healthy. So we probably have more guys that are healthy. Depth at safety has been a real issue for us since we lost Vinnie Sunseri (knee) and Nick Perry (shoulder) this year. It's made us a little thin in the backend. But it's given a great opportunity to the younger guys to be able to get a lot of reps and turns. I think that's what Maurice Smith and Eddie Jackson have been able to do."
Saban was asked if the practices have been more intense in this bowl preparation time than in previous years.
"I think the players have done a good job in this bowl practice," he said. "I think they've worked hard. Maybe I'm getting too old, but I don't remember what bowl practice was like last year or the year before. I guess you need to ask them about that."
As has been the case since the bowl matchup was announced, Saban has been complimentary of Oklahoma, which plays in the Big 12. He was asked if there were differences between Southeastern Conference and Big 12 offenses.
"I think football is basically football," Saban said. "Oklahoma made their living this year being able to run the ball effectively." The Sooners averaged 235.8 yards rushing per game, but Saban doesn't include quarterbacks being sacked in rushing yardage and gave Oklahoma credit for 261 rushing yards per game.
"That's pretty good rushing football," he said. "If you look at a conference that's supposed to be a spread – spread you out, throw it all over the place, kind of loose play kind of conference…
"I think they have the ability to do that, because they have really good skill guys and their quarterbacks are capable.
"But they've been most effective when they've been able to run the ball against people.
"You have to stop the run. You have to get (your defense) off the field on third down. You have to affect the quarterback."
"I don't really see the differences in the conferences. Maybe if you look at the conferences as a whole, maybe there is a little bit more sort of wide open kind of spread type, what people refer to as spread type football in their league than there is in ours. But our league is getting more and more like that."