Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Wednesday that his Crimson Tide team is “working hard” as Bama prepares for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Missouri Saturday. Kickoff in Atlanta will be at 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. central) with CBS televising.
Saban said, “The big thing that we’re trying to get our players to realize is that the past is the past. They’ve created a great opportunity for themselves. They’ve got to look forward to a new energy and a new enthusiasm for the opportunity.”
There are few people in the nation with an interest in college football who are not aware of the implications of the Saturday game. Close to home it is for the SEC Championship, which would be a record 24th for Bama if the Tide wins the game and a ground-breaking first for Missouri, which has been in the league only three years, if the Tigers win.
Beyond that, for the past few weeks Alabama has been the nation’s number one team in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee ranking, and a victory for the Tide would mean a spot – probably the number one seed -- in the inaugural four-team playoff.
There certainly was no one in the Naylor Stone Media Center in the Mal More Athletic Building attending the Nick Saban press briefing who is not aware of the magnitude of the game; so much so that it was highly unlikely anyone would bother with the obvious.
Saban said, “I know you all are going to ask me about the magnitude of the game. I think everybody understands the magnitude of the game. I think everyone understands the consequences of the game one way or another.
“I’ve been getting asked that question ever since we started playing SEC games, and we played Florida. ‘What’s the magnitude of this game?’ ‘How big of a game is this?’ Then Ole Miss week, and how big of a game was that?
“So every game we played all year it’s the same question. So I’ve got the same answer:
“It’s the most important game because it’s the next game. And it’s the next game that has an importance because of what the players have created for themselves, and they’ve created a great opportunity to play against a great Missouri team, an outstanding Missouri team,
“It’s a very competitive venue to play in the Georgia Dome for the SEC championship. Everybody understands that’s the magnitude of the game for us, and that’s what we need to make sure that we’re focusing on and being prepared to get done.”
So the lesson for today is even though the question may be so obvious as to not bother to ask it, Saban can provide an excellent answer.
Also, it’s a good thing he asked it.
Wednesday’s practice was indoors. Saban said, “The reason why we practice indoors is to try and get the players a little more acclimated to those kinds of surroundings, that kind of temperature, and hopefully they’ll be more ready to play indoors when we play there on Saturday.”
The coach also said, “Rest for the players is really, really important.”
On the injury front, Saban said that left tackle Cam Robinson, who injured a shoulder in Bama’s 55-44 win over Auburn last week; wide receiver Ardarius Stewart, who missed last week’s game with an injury; and tight end Brian Vogler, who played only the final play last week because of an injury that held him out of the heat of the battle, are all practicing. He added that ordinarily if a player is able to practice during the week he will be able to play in the game. He also said linebacker Denzel Devall has been limited in practice and “he would be the most questionable for the game.”
Placekicker Adam Griffith has been slowed by an undisclosed health issue. Saban said the Tide worked on kickoff and kickoff return Wednesday “and Adam was able to kick off for the first time in a couple of weeks. He doesn’t have any issues.”
In Griffith’s absence, punter JK Scott has been handling kickoff duties.
Saban said, “I’m okay with both of those guys when it comes to kickoff, they both do a good job with kickoff. Adam is certainly a little more experienced at putting the ball in the right place. JK has really done a good job for us, so we don’t really have any issues with him doing it. I do think that Griff, because of range and accuracy, is definitely helpful, and also is quick, gets the ball up fast, so we really need him on field goals.”