Saban On Record At Capital One

The Capital One Bowl had its luncheon press conference in Orlando Friday and Alabama Coach Nick Saban commented on various aspects of the game. He was also asked about the statue that will be erected at Bryant-Denny Stadium in honor of him coaching Bama to the national championship in 2009.

Alabama and Michigan State will play in the Capital One Bowl at 1 p.m. EST (noon central time) Saturday at the Citrus Bowl Stadium.

When Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban was asked about the statue, he said, "That's [his wife] Terry's department," he said. "She wanted it to look a certain way, so I don't even know where it's at. I haven't thought much about it and I really don't know when it's going to be done. It's taking a while, though."

He drew a laugh when he added, "Didn't have a hell of a lot to work with, I guess."

Here is what Saban had to say:

Opening statement

It's been a great week for our team and our players. I think the people here at the Capital One Bowl have done an outstanding job at the hospitality. This is a great opportunity for our team to play an outstanding Michigan State team who should be congratulated for the great year that they had. I think winning 11 games is really something in their league, which is a very good league. It's something that everyone should have a tremendous amount of respect for. Mark [Dantonio] has done a great job there. This is an opportunity for our team to play against a top ten team and maybe finish the season on a positive note relative to some of the shortcomings we've had in terms of the consistency that we've played with at times during this season. Maybe four or five plays last year make a difference from where we end up, maybe four or five plays this year make a difference where we end up, but regardless of all that it's really about how you finish and this is important to the future of this program and to this team as to how we finish and play in this game.

On comparisons between the Big Ten and SEC

I think the quality of both leagues should not be in question. I think there are three teams in the Big Ten this year that all have an argument to be in the BCS. All won 11 games, all are in the top 10. I don't care how you cut the mustard, that's a pretty strong league. I think from top to bottom the Big Ten is a very good league. In the SEC we have similar highly-ranked teams. I don't know how many teams we played in the top 20 this year but it's probably 6, 7, or 8, several in the top 10. It's great competition. If there's any difference at all, it's probably passion of the fans. Not that the Big Ten fans don't have tremendous passion, they just have choices. They've had choices through the years. The biggest difference that I see, from a guy that's been both places, is that for a long time there weren't any pro sports in the South, so everybody sort of grew up identifying with their college team and I think some of that passion still exists and makes it a great league to coach in. From a football standpoint, I don't think the quality of either league should be in question.

On Alabama's keys to victory

I think winning football games always comes down to the same thing. You have to be very physical and play with toughness, and win on the line of scrimmage. That's going to be critical. Both sides of the ball. They're a very good running team, they have great balance in their offense so for us to play well on the line of scrimmage will be important. It'll be the same when we have the ball that we can control the line of scrimmage whether we're throwing or running. Scoring points is always really important, but turnovers and big plays and explosive plays probably have as much to do with outcomes of games as anything and I'm sure it'll have a lot to do with the outcome of this game. So I'll say those three things: winning on the line of scrimmage, who makes the explosive plays, as well as the turnover margins.

On whether leaving Michigan State after the 1999 season was the right choice

I think any time you make a change, it's a difficult period for you personally. I think most of the time the people externally look at the professional side of it but mostly don't understand the personal side of it- what your children go through, what your family goes through, what your wife goes through, and what you go through making the decision to leave. As I've said before, probably more than any place I've coached only because of being there twice, five years each time for ten years, we probably have more close friends, more good relationships with people and as much respect for a school as any place we've ever been. So that was very, very difficult and I think any decision you make you look back and say there's good and bad in everything that you did. We had a great time at Michigan State, we accomplished a lot of things there. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the folks at Michigan State who gave us an opportunity first with [MSU head coach from 1983-1994] George [Perles] to be a coordinator which was the first position of responsibility that I really ever had and really my time under George Perles probably did as much to prepare me to be a head coach as anything that's ever happened in my career. Then the second opportunity to go back as a head coach was a phenomenal opportunity at a really good school in the Big Ten and we made things better. It would have been a tremendous challenge to stay longer, but other people have done a fantastic job there as Mark has in the last three or four years that he's been there.

On Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's comments during yesterday's coordinator press conference about guarding against complacency

I think our guys have prepared well. I don't think Coach Smart was referring to anything to do with this particular game or not respecting Michigan State and what they've accomplished and the really good team that they have. It's more that it's been the challenge with this team all year long. I made the statement that we won 19 games in a row and people got too satisfied with winning and we quit playing to a standard and we quit practicing to a standard. We lost the standard of toughness that made our team and our program what it was. That's what we've tried to emphasize with our players to reestablish as a team. I think that's the thing that's one of the issues that we've sort of dealt with- the complacency coming off the success of last year's team. But last year's team doesn't define this year's team. The legacy of this year's team is going to go a long way in how they finish the season.

On Mark Dantonio as a "young pup coach"

He wasn't a young pup coach. He was a good coach. He did a great job. He had to put up with me for five years, because whoever coaches the secondary on our team, I'm in the room 90 per cent of the time. He did it and managed it better than anything. He had more maturity in doing it than most. So he wasn't a young pup and if he was young he was very mature. He's had an outstanding career, did a fantastic job for us. Great person, great recruiter, did a really good job of coaching and developing players and that's continued wherever he's been the coach.

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