What was the biggest surprise of the BCS National Championship Game played a little over a year ago…
Tide Must Finish To Finish Business
Alabama football players will have Sunday and Monday off and return to work in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. That will be the start of a regular work week. After a Tuesday morning practice the team will leave for Miami and the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame on Jan. 7.
"Our feeling is that two days off does 100 times more good than one day off," said Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban.
He said, "We finished up sort of our second block of practice today. I'm very pleased with the way the players have responded. We've had a lot of good practices; we've got a lot of players that are improving, getting back to where we'd like for them to be.
"But I think even mental preparation during this time, thinking about what you have to do in terms of what your job is, what to do, how to do it, why it's important to do it that way, understanding how they're going to try to attack you, how they're going to try to defend you.
"I think the focus that we really have to have on this team is you've got to finish.
"These guys do a great job in their front seven of getting their hands inside and striking blockers and getting off blocks, so you've got to finish blocks. You've got to finish plays on defense. They've got really good backs, an athletic quarterback, and you've got to tackle well. Turnovers and explosive plays are always going to be big parts of any game in terms of how you control those things. Control the line of scrimmage. Playing in the red zone. They've stopped two or three teams on the goal line this year. So finishing drives.
"All these things come down to finish, finish, finish. Finish practice today. It's got to be a mindset that you're going to finish everything that you do.
"We're working to try to get back in the kind of condition where we can do that. If you get tired, you're not going to finish things the way you should. If you don't have the right kind of mental toughness you're not going to finish things the way you should.
"So this is really important, to get this done in practice – really important. And I've been pleased so far; a lot of good things being done out there; a lot of players making a lot of improvement."
There was no news on the injury front. All-America center Barrett Jones (sprained foot) and back-up linebacker Denzel Devall (sprained knee) continue as the most prominent players fighting to get back for the championship game.
Saban said the practice schedule is "very similar" to Tide work in national championship game preparation at the end of the 2009 and 2011 seasons, when Bama won the titles.
"Hopefully," he said, "our players will respond well and we'll get them back to where they need to be to play their best football in the game when it counts."
That doesn't mean reinventing the wheel. Saban emphasized that it isn't necessary to "come up with something new" just because there is more time for preparation for the BCS National Championship Game, although he acknowledged, "Lots of people do. They think they have a lot of time to practice, so we can come up with a lot of tricks and different things like that.
"I don't necessarily think that's the way we've done it in the past. I think you technically do what you think you need to do to be able to attack the other team, doing things your players know how to do. If you try to do too many things they don't know how to do, they have a better chance of messing them up. So is the extra practice time allowing you to put a few new wrinkles in? Absolutely. That's something everybody likes to do. But I think you can overdo it."