Florida Challenge Already Underway

Over the course of a football season, the Alabama Crimson Tide is likely to play games that begin before noon and long after sundown, and at various times in between. That's the price college football teams pay for the substantial lucre provided by television.

This week, Alabama will be playing a night game, kickoff at 7 p.m. CDT (8 p.m. eastern time, which is what it will be in Gainesville). The Crimson Tide will take on the Florida Gators and CBS will televise the game nationwide.

It is an attractive match-up. Both teams are 4-0. Bama is ranked second in the nation, Florida 12th.

Alabama players, who will fly into Gainesville Friday evening, will have a long day before kickoff. (So will Florida players, of course. And if the Gators are like most big-time college football teams, they, too, will spend the day in a hotel. Teams do that home and away so that every game has the same structure.)

Although the players say they will rest, watch film, listen to music, etc., they will also have a series of meetings with coaches in the time leading up to the game.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said hat the important time before the game doesn't begin on Saturday. It begins with the preparation for the game, which starts on Monday at Alabama.

Saban said the key to success is execution in the game, which depends on how the players have practiced during the week. "How well do you practice undamentally how many mental errors do you make based on the preparation that you've had in terms of what we're trying to do, how we're trying to execute it, why it's important to execute it that way," he said. "And all that is a part of preparation. How you eat, how you rest, how you sleep, how you prepare, the film you watch, how much anticipation do you have of what might happen in certain situations so you can respond and react a little better in the game. All those things happen throughout the week. We've had a decent week so far and I hope we can continue here on out."

That preparation continued with a two-hour practice in shells Wednesday.

"This is certainly a very challenging opportunity for our players," said Saban. "Florida, obviously, has a very good team. They are making a lot of big plays on people running the ball and in the passing game. Their defense has played probably as well as anybody we have seen all year."

The two teams enter Saturday's contest ranked in the top 10 nationally in a combined 12 categories as both teams boast a top-10 ranking in six categories each. On top of both defenses being highly ranked, the running back matchup of Bama's Trent Richardson (110.25 yards per game) and Florida's Chris Rainey (102.75 yards per game) will be on display.

"If you are a great competitor, you love challenges," said Saban. "It is an opportunity for our players. Just like earlier in the year when we had to go on the road, this is obviously going to test the maturity and leadership of our team.

"I don't think there's any question that having a game on the road has probably helped prepare this team for they are ready to get into. They know what to expect. I think every one of those experiences, especially with young players, helps their maturity, and hopefully will help us play with more consistency and help us play better football Saturday night."

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