Saban Managing Tide In Bye Week

It's still some time until the most anticipated game of the college football season. Alabama vs. LSU may not live up to the hype -- quite of a few of these dream games do not -- but this can be said: Last summer the publishers of publications and college internet sites were asked to name the game of the year and the overwhelming prediction was that it would be LSU at Alabama on Nov. 5.

Alabama and LSU have done their part to make it the college fotball event of the year. LSU is ranked number one and Alabama is number two and both are undefeated, 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games. (And those publishers also overwhelmingly named the SEC as the best football conference.)

The site will be Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. CDT as CBS maneuvered to make it a prime time game.

Both teams also have an open week leading up to the game.

How the teams prepare will be part of the equation when the game finally is played.

"You never know until you go out there and play," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said following Tuesday's Bama practice. "You can do studies on bye weeks and how you come off bye weeks when you did it this way and how you come off bye weeks when you did it some other way. I think you just have to have some faith, trust and confidence in the way you manage the bye week to help your players come off and play well and improve."

Alabama players were given Sunday and Monday as off days, although the team did watch the tape of last week's 37-6 win over Tennessee on Monday. The Crimson Tide went out in shorts and shoulder pads and worked for about two hours Tuesday. There will be full gear workouts Wednesday and Thursday and then players will get another few days off before beginning game preparation next Monday.

Saban said, "I think when you're playing well you really like the routine of game week -- everybody does the same thing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then go play the game. I felt like we were in a good routine.

"But I also felt in the last couple of weeks we've gotten a little beat up physically to where we lost a couple of players and we also had some guys playing who needed a little rest and time to recover. Hopefully this will help us from a physical standpoint.

"I'm hopeful our guys can take a businesslike approach to this early on so that the emotional and psychological aspects of this game don't get to them too quickly and create an anxiety that might be able to affect them not in a positive way; be mature enough to understand the most important thing is the effort they play with, the toughness they play, with the discipline to execute and do their jobs, and to know they are going to play against the best football players and the best football team they have played against all year.

"That's a challenge they should all enjoy as competitors, and they have all been in some games before they should know what it takes to be successful."

Saban said the emphasis on Tiuesday and Wednesday would be "to improve our deficiencies as a team. We make a quality control list of everything we want to try to work on at every position and also with individual players on things they need to improve and the things that we need to work on collectively as a unit whether it's special teams group or offense or defense." He added that in Wednesday's practice "we'll work hard on fundamentals" and that later in the week preparation would begin for LSU.

Saban also added to the injury list. In addition to linebacker Alex Watkins suffering a broken arm and being out for two or three weeks and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio having a season-ending knee injury that will require surgery that linebacker Jonathan Atchison is going to have bicep surgery later this week and will be lost.

He did say that starting right guard Anthony Steen, who was held out of last week's game after suffering a concussion in a win over Ole Miss Oct. 15, "has been cleared and did practice" Tuesday.

Saban said a key in the LSU game will be "getting our players not to think about everything that's surrounding the game. That will be the hardest part. And focus on what they need to do to play goof football in the game and not worry about all the stuff that's going on outside of the game.

"Because if you are a good competitor and playing to be the best player that you can be, and preparing to be the best player that you can be, this is a very, very important game. But every game we play is a very important game, because if you don't win the last one, the next one isn't so important. And the one after this one will be real important, too.

"And so you want your team to improve and you always want your team to improve and you always want your team to play its best. And it's certainly going to take our best effort from every guy on our team to play with a very good LSU team and have an opportunity to be successful.

"That's our goal.

"But that's our goal in every game.

"Not to get affected by the circumstances surrounding the game is probably the key to being able to play a really good game. But you need to focus on what you need to do to play good football."

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