One Week Left Until BCS Title Game

Five weeks down and one to go. Although it has been a long time since Alabama trounced Auburn, the Crimson Tide has not had too many practices in its preparation for the national championship game.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has adjusted the way in which he prepares a team for a bowl game, and that process is in place as the Crimson Tide prepares to meet LSU for the national champion in one week. Bama and the Tigers will kick off in the BCS National Championship Game at the New Orleans Superdome at 7:30 p.m. CST Monday, Jan. 9.

Alabama last played a football game on Nov. 26 when the Tide went to Auburn and came back with a 42-14 win. LSU played a week later, winning the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Georgia by 42-10 on Dec. 3.

LSU is 13-0 and ranked first in the nation. Bama is 11-1 and second nationally. The Tide's lone loss was a 9-6 overtime setback at the hands of LSU on Nov. 5.

Following Alabama's Saturday practice, the Crimson Tide had an off day Sunday. Today the team will meet and have what Coach Nick Saban called "a stretch and stride." Alabama will return to practice Tuesday before going to New Orleans to complete preparations.

Most Alabama practices have been held in the Crimson Tide's indoor practice facility, although on a near-perfect Saturday Bama was outdoors working primarily on the kicking game. Saban had said earlier that the primary reason for working indoors is that the game will be played indoors.

The Tide coach said that preparation for a game that is six weeks removed from a previous game requires maturity on the part of his players. He said they have to do the right things to take care of themselves in the interim.

Most of the time between games was not spent on football practice, and only about half of the practice days relate directly to playing LSU.

"We had three weeks where we worked out -- lifted weights -- where we really didn't practice," Saban said. "Once we started practicing, the players had to buy into the concept that this is a one-game season."

That meant that practice started the way fall camp begins in August with work on fundamentals and getting back to game condition. After a short break for Christmas to let the players "heal up," Saban said, "then you kind of do it again. It's a little like lifting weights. You don't lift every day. You lift every other day. You tear your muscles down a little, then you build back up, and you do that over and over again. That's how you get stronger."

Saban first prepared a team for a bowl game when he was head coach at Michigan State in 1995. His team lost in the Independence Bowl by 45-26.

(The opponent in that first Saban-coached bowl game? LSU.)

Michigan State went 0-3 in bowl games under Saban. And so he changed his approach to bowl preparation.

"I used to try to carry the season to the game," he said. "Maybe we'd play on Nov. 28 and the season would be over. On Dec. 5, 6, and 7 we'd have three practices, and then (the coaches) would go recruiting until the next Wednesday or Thursday and we'd have two or three more practices the next week.

"Then on Dec. 18 we'd start practicing and we've already had five or six practices. Then we'd have Christmas break and come back and do the game week stuff.

"By the time the players got to the game they were just shot. I don't know if they were shot emotionally or physically or whatever.

"So we starting taking more of the approach that with that much time off, there's no way that you can carry the momentum of the season to the bowl game.

"You have to approach it more like it's a one-game season."

Saban improved his bowl record at LSU (3-2) and at Alabama (3-1 in his first four years). In BCS National Championship Games he is 2-0, winning over Oklahoma while at LSU in 2003 and leading his Alabama team to a victory over Texas in 2009.

Saban said the players have to use the bowl preparation time wisely. "A player can't think that with all the time in between, ‘I'm going to lollygag my way through practice. I'm not going to push myself. I'm not going to prepare myself well and think I'm going to turn a switch on in the game and that everything's going to be like it used to be.'

"That's not going to happen," he said.

He said, "So that's really kind of the approach that we use, but it's not so psychologically drug out to where they think, ‘Man, it seems like we've been practicing forever.'"

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