Alabama Facing Underdog Sooners

As Alabama began bowl preparation in mid-December, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban pointed out that 33 days between games for Bama (26 for Oklahoma) means a team has not had game-type decisions for a very long time. Tacklers haven't tackled and backs and receivers haven't been tackled. As a result, bowl games often result in higher yardage and point totals and in more turnovers.

Alabama, 11-1 and ranked second in the nation, takes on Oklahoma, 10-2 and ranked 10th in one poll but 11th in most, in the Sugar Bowl Thursday in New Orleans. Kickoff from the Louisiana Superdome will be at 7:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN.

As would be expected, Alabama is a heavy favorite in the game.

Wednesday morning, in the final press conferences before the game, both Bama Coach Nick Saban and Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops were asked about the underdog status.

The question to Saban involved the historically good record of underdogs in bowl games and why it happens.

Saban said, "I think it's about mindset. It's really hard to bring the season to the bowl game because the amount of time in between opportunities to play. So how your team sort of resets its mindset is really important to how a team's going to prepare, how they're going to focus, how they're going to play in the game.

"Sometimes if you're an underdog, you have a little bit more to prove. So that mindset is a little better maybe than a team that doesn't have sort of the right motivation going into a game. Because I really do think when you play in a Bowl game it's all about mindset."

Saban might not be the best person to ask about underdog success. The Crimson Tide has not been the underdog since the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Number One ranked Florida at the end of the 2009 season. Bama won that game, 32-13.

Stoops made the case for Alabama being the favorite.

He said, "In my eyes, they're still the best team in the country. Here they are, they've been the best team in the country for three years, up to the very last play of the regular season. So a great, great team. We recognize that. Coach Saban and his staff have done a great job in the way they've developed their team. So we know we have a big challenge, but very excited about the challenge. Our team is excited about the challenge of it. And we've worked hard to put ourselves in the position, hopefully, to win the game tomorrow.

"I think everybody would say they're as good a football team as we've played in 15 years. How can you not? They're one second away from playing in a third straight national championship game. So they're a great, great team with great talent across the board and, again, very well coached."

That established, has Stoops used the underdog role as motivation for his team?

To his credit, Stoops rejected the theory.

"I don't see that, not at a place like Oklahoma," he said. "That isn't something that we've ever done. I don't know how to do that, to be quite honest with you. That's not one of our motivational methods. So we're about what do we do, how do we do things the right way to give ourselves an opportunity to win, and we emphasize that. And the other stuff I can't say that somewhere in the back of some kids' minds they might not have heard something one too many times and it triggers something. I can't speak to that. But it's not a card that I play; I don't know how to play that card."

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