Saban Excited About SEC Opener

There's a little different feeling around Alabama football, and it's not because autumn has officially arrived. Temperatures are still mid-90s in Tuscaloosa. But this week the Crimson Tide is preparing for a different breed of opponent.

This week Alabama opens Southeastern Conference play. Bama, 3-0 and ranked first in the nation, goes to Arkansas, also 3-0 and ranked 10th in the nation. The Razorbacks have played a conference game, but this will be the first league contest for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "It comes down to what you do all year long is really about playing SEC games and being ready for the conference season. That's really what it's all about. Whether it's lifting weights in the off season, going through the Fourth Quarter program, summer conditioning, all the practice of fall camp, the three games prior to this -- it's all to try to get your team in the best possible position to be able to play well in the conference."

Alabama and Arkansas will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday with television coverage by CBS.

Saban said the things that excites him the most is how his team will perform.

"You're always excited about playing in conference games, and this game in particular is a big game," Saban said. "It's the first game in the conference. Every game in the conference is an important game. Playing on the road, playing against a very good team, top team, very challenging, but I think when you coach here, when you play here, when you come here, those are the kind of things you really get excited about and those are the kind of games you want to play. I think it's going to be a different kind of circumstance, and guys who are great competitors this is where they can rise to the occasion with their maturity, still stay focused on what they need to do to play well. So that will be a challenge for this team, and I'm excited to see how this team responds to it. That's probably the thing I'm most excited about, playing a big game, a great team, even playing on the road, it will be a challenge for us and it will be interesting to see how we respond."

Based on practice, Alabama could be expected to respond well.

"We've really had a good week of work," Saban said. "This is obviously a challenging team that we're playing in terms of their scheme and talent level, but I've been pleased with the way the players have responded and the way they've worked at it.  The preparation has been good.

"There are things that everyone needs to improve on, there are things that we need to improve on as a team, there are things that every individual needs to improve on."

The Tide coach said, "I think we've practiced a little better, I think guys are a little more attentive in meetings. I think our guys have a lot of respect for the teams in our league, and especially the team we are playing. I think their interest level is elevated in terms of what they want to try to accomplish and what they want to try to do. I think the preparation has been fairly good, the practice has been good, the attention to detail has been good.

"You'd like to see everybody go execute the game and the game be won or lost on execution, not lack of it, for both teams. That's where we're trying to get our team to get to, and hopefully we'll do a little bit better this week than we have in the past."

He said Alabama had worked inside on Wednesday, something it has done every Wednesday before a game this year. He explained that it has been primarily to avoid the heat, but that this week it has the additional benefit of playing on an artificial surface similar to the field at Arkansas."

Saban said that starting defensive end Luther Davis, who suffered a sprained knee and ankle in last week's 62-13 win over Duke, had returned to practice.

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