Bowl Game Means Much To Vlachos

In the big scheme, Alabama playing in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on January 1 isn't likely to be long remembered. After all, Bama has played in more bowl games than any other team and no team has more bowl victories than the Crimson Tide. Without question, Alabama has played in more important bowl games.



Just think back a year to Alabama playing in the BCS national championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. That 37-21 victory over Texas to complete a 14-0 season and win the Crimson Tide's 13th national championship will always be a major part of storied Bama history.

But there are important things about the Capital One Bowl game the Crimson Tide will play against Michigan State.

"It's not where we would hope to be when we set our goals for a season, but it's a great bowl nonetheless," said Alabama junior center William Vlachos. "It's a great opportunity for us to put together a 60-minute game and build on next year, the off-season, te spring, and everything. We get a lot of practice time leading up to the game that we've got to take advantage of. That's what we've done so far."

Tide players had seven practices in Tuscaloosa and are now on a short Christmas break. The team will assemble in Orlando Christmas night and begin game-week preparation Monday. Alabama and Michigan State will kick off at noon Saturday, January 1. ESPN will televise the game.

Vlachos will return to Alabama next season, but this will be the last game in an Alabama uniform for a number of Tiders.

"For me, personally, it will be kind of hard not to play with Greg (McElroy) and Preston (Dial) and James (Carpenter) and those type guys ever again," Vlachos said. "We're trying to enjoy as much as we can in our last moments practicing together."

He said Tuscaloosa practice was "a good week," and said the team would be excited in its final week of practice in Orlando.

Vlachos said a good aspect of practice for the bowl game was having the starting offensive line back. Midway through the season the Tide was without right tackle D.J. Fluker, who was out with a groin pull, and right guard Barrett Jones missed the last two games of the year with a high ankle sprain.

"It's been good having Barrett back since bowl practices," Vlachos said. "That will help us. He's certainly one of our leaders up front. On the offensive line, continuity is a big thing.

"We've had some very sharp practices and we're looking forward to getting deeper into the game plan as we get closer to the game. We're getting ready to play our best game of the year."

Vlachos missed a few of the Tuscaloosa practices. "I had the flu," he said. "I lost a little weight, but I'm trying to put that back on. But I'm feeling good. I couldn't eat a whole lot when I had the flu, but I'm eating normally. It's behind me now."

Sportswriters noticed that Vlachos was wearing green and white sweatpants with a "Spartans" logo. But he wasn't wearing Michigan State colors and logo. Those are sweatpants from his prep days with the Mountain Brook Spartans. "I don't think anyone noticed that," he said. "That's pretty funny. I didn't even think about it."

Vlachos said he had been impressed looking at the Michigan State defense. "Watching them on film, against quality opponents with good records, they're a very good defense," he said. "We'll have to bring our A-game and keep getting better every day in practice and get comfortable with that game plan so we can go out there and execute and do what we do, try to run the ball and all that stuff. They're a good defense – it's going to be a challenge for us.

He said he got a feel for the type of defense earlier in the season. "Playing against Penn State, that was one of the most physical games that I've played in, and I expect them to be extremely physical, very sound," Vlachos said. "They've had a while to prepare and they're going to be in the right spots all the time."

Alabama players have taken note of Michigan State's record of making comebacks to win games this season. "It shows they want to win," Vlachos said. "They play with a lot of passion – it's pretty evident watching them on film. Watching them in their games, the games I've watched so far, they're very good and it's going to be a challenge and we're looking forward to it."

Most players headed to the Capital One Bowl are excited about the bowl gift, each player allowed to make $400 worth of purchases at Best Buy. Vlachos isn't as keen as most of the others.

"I'm not big on electronics," he said. "My Dad had to hook up my DVD player."

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