No Place Like Home For Tide Safety

It's no secret that many in the Alabama football family are disappointed that the season will end at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Once upon a time that would have been the best possible finish, but now most bowl games – even the Sugar Bowl -- are lost to the emphasis of the BCS National Championship Game. That, of course, is where the Crimson Tide had hoped to be.

By Thursday, when Alabama meets Oklahoma in a battle of top ten teams in the Louisiana Superdome, there should be some excitement. The Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban is 11-1 and ranked third in the nation, the Sooners of Coach Bob Stoops 10-2 and ranked 10th. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN.

Alabama had at least one player who was excited when he heard the bowl announcement.

"Great," said Bama sophomore safety Landon Collins. "It's my hometown." Collins is from Geismar, actually about 50 miles west of New Orleans, but it will be close enough that he'll have plenty of support from friends and family in the Sugar Bowl.

Collins, 6-0, 215, was a dime back early in the season, then moved into the starting strong safety spot after Vinnie Sunseri suffered a season-ending knee injury. Collins went on to earn second team All-Southeastern Conference after finishing the season with 61 tackles – second on the team to unanimous All-America C.J. Mosley.

He led the team in passes broken up with six and had a memorable interception against Tennessee, returning it 89 yards for a touchdown. Ten of his tackles came on special teams (3 punt, 7 kickoff coverage), which was best for Bama. He also caused and recovered two fumbles.

This will be Collins's first game in the Superdome, although he has been there to see high school championship games and once to see the Saints.

Collins pointed out a reason that he expects Alabama's defense to be prepared for Oklahoma's offense. That reason?

Alabama's offense.

With 33 days between the Tide's final regular season game and the Sugar Bowl, Collins said, agreed that it could be difficult "because we haven't tackled anybody, haven't been in game situations.

"But we're practicing hard and playing against a great offense in our team, so we should be all right."

In addition to playing before the home folk, Collins echoed many of his teammates in saying the motivation for Alabama in the Sugar Bowl is "To come out and show that we're still one of the best teams, one of the best offensive and defensive teams in college football and could compete with anybody."

It's not all work for the players, and Collins looks forward to showing his teammates around the city. "They ask me all types of stuff about New Orleans and what's going on and what there is to do and stuff like that. That's what's big to me."

One thing he promises is that there is no shortage of great places to eat.

Collins will be going for his favorite. "Shrimp fettuccine," he said. "I'm going straight seafood."

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