Saban Has Respect For Florida Gators

One listening to Alabama Coach Nick Saban talk about the Florida Gators would come to the conclusion that it's a good thing the Crimson Tide has the nation's number one team. Otherwise, Bama might not have a prayer.



Nick Saban is no different from any other coach in the respect that he gives an upcoming opponent.

Alabama will host Florida at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821) with national television coverage by CBS. It is what would be called a big game. Alabama is ranked number one, Florida number seven. The teams are the two most recent national champions (Bama in 2009, the Gators in 2008) and the combatants in the last two Southeastern Conference Championship games.

Alabama has a current 14-game winning streak. Florida's only loss in that same period is to the Tide in last year's SEC title game.

Saban discussed the Gators Monday, starting with "Florida is an outstanding team."

Specifically, Saban pointed out, "They probably have a record of dominance, more than any team in our league, over what they've done in the last few years under Urban Meyer, who is an outstanding coach and does a great job with them.

"They've got a lot of team speed. They've got good players at all the skill positions. They've got a good offensive line. Defensively they're very active, run well, have a lot of team speed and they play outstanding on special teams. This is as good of an all-around team as we've played all year, and certainly have improved each week that they've played this year with a new quarterback (John Brantley), and also with a new guy coming in at quarterback some who really plays tight end, No. 8 Trey Burton. He's done some of the quarterback run stuff that Tim Tebow used to do.

"This will be a very challenging game for us and a very challenging preparation for us relative to what they do, but certainly the kind of game that our players should be looking forward to."

Alabama and Florida have played only four times since Meyer became head coach at Florida in 2005 and only twice since Saban took over the Crimson Tide team in 2007. Both coaches have .500 records, Meyer 2-2, Saban 1-1. The two previous meetings under Saban were both in the SEC Championship Game.

Saban said playing a regular season game doesn't change the preparation. "We want to get ready to play our best football every game that we play," he said. "It's a standard that we want to play to here, and it doesn't really matter if the names on the back of the jerseys change and the numbers change but the standard never does. That's a very challenging thing to get from a consistency standpoint but it's certainly what we want with our team. I think the focus for our team is to play their best football and learn what they need to do to continue to improve to be able to do that. We're playing a very, very good team and this is a great opportunity to show some of that improvement, but I think our focus has to stay on what we do, how we do it, understanding the fact that we control a lot of what happens by what we do. I think it's important that we learn and grow. That's got to be the focus for our team. We've got to be concerned about what we're doing, how we're doing it and how to improve and get better."

Saban said the emergence of Trey Burton in Florida's offense last week doesn't necessarily mean a change in style. "It would be a combination of what they did last year," Saban suggested. He said Burton has the ability to throw the football, "so it's not a running back playing quarterback. The guy is a very good player."

He said Burton combined with regular quarterback Brantly, an excellent passer, "does present some issues and problems."

Saban said Brantley, a junior who has taken over for Tim Tebow, "has played very well. I think he's played better in each game. He's got a good arm and they have made very consistent improvement in the passing game. They have good, quality skill guys."

Saban looked back at Alabama's 24-20 come-from-behind win at Arkansas and said, "There's plenty to learn from last week's game. I think the biggest thing is what we're capable of when we do things correctly and what can happen when you don't. I think the intensity of the game overwhelmed us a little bit early in the game. We kind of counterpunched our way back into it, but it's an unbelievable job of overcoming adversity, which is something that some teams may or may not be able to do. I think it's a real credit to the competitive character to our team in the situation they were in, the circumstances that they were playing in, but I think all these things are opportunities to learn from. The biggest one being, you better bring your A-game every time you play in this league, regardless of where you're playing. There are a lot of good players and a lot of good football teams. We certainly need to be ready to play and hitting on all cylinders every time we play."

Saban said the only injury is to defensive end Marcell Dareus, who has been nursing a bad ankle. The coach said Dareus "is making good progress" and would return to practice Tuesday or Wednesday.

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