Two Important Days Ahead For Alabama

The countdown until Christmas has been going on for at least a month, but there’s another countdown going on in Alabama football that has nothing to do with getting presents. There are only two more practices – Sunday and Monday – until the Crimson Tide gets a brief holiday break.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban considers the next two practices to be very important.

The Crimson Tide has had five practice days since the end of final examinations and a brief break. The last two practices have been work on the game plan for the semifinal game of the inaugural College Football Playoff. Bama had a two-hour workout in full gear in the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility Saturday.

Top-ranked Alabama and fourth-ranked Ohio State will meet in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.

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Following Saturday’s practice, Saban pointed out that it is unusual for a football team to have seven consecutive practice days, that it hasn’t happened since fall camp in August. He said, “The most important thing is to maintain the intensity during this time so we can continue to improve and really pay attention to detail, get a good grasp on the game plan, so when we come back after Christmas, we’re not trying to learn a bunch of new stuff. We’re just trying to get what we do know right and execute it so we can go out there and play our best.

“So I think it’s really, really important to finish these next couple of days.

“We’ve been really pleased with what we’ve been able to get done so far with the players in the first five practices. The most important thing is to be able to finish strong these next couple of days.”

He said that Zach Houston, a junior defensive back from Daphne, had suffered a knee injury in practice and would probably have to have surgery.

Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen was formerly offensive coordinator at Florida under current Ohio State Urban Meyer, and Saban was asked if Ohio State is similar to Mississippi State – a team that was ranked first in the nation before Bama defeated the Bulldogs, 25-20, in mid-November.

“There are similiarites,” Saban said. “They certainly have different kinds of players, very good skill players, very good running back.”

The mystery for Alabama is that Ohio State lost its first two quarterbacks, Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, and the Buckeyes are now led by third-year sophomore Cardale Jones. He did a good enough job in the Big Ten Championship Game, leading Ohio State to a 59-0 victory and into the College Football Playoff.

Saban said, “We’re not sure about how much we’ve seen of the quarterback, but their quarterback has done a really good job the past two years whether it was Braxton Miller when he played or Barrett when he played because they were great runners and great athletes and that combination was very, very difficult on a lot of people and difficult for us when we played a team like that.”

Moreover, Saban said, getting back to the Mullen-Meyer connection, “Dan and Urban were together at Florida, but I think they have their own style of doing it, and I think they’ve progressed.

“This is a very, very good offensive team that has been very, very productive and they’ve got really good players and they do a great job with them and this is going to be a real big challenge for us in this game.”

The 2015 Sugar Bowl will be the fourth meeting between Saban and Meyer, with Saban’s teams holding a 2-1 edge. The coaches first squared off in the 2008 SEC Championship Game where Meyer’s Gators claimed a 31-20 victory. A year later, Alabama dispatched Florida, 32-13, to win the SEC Championship on its way to an undefeated BCS National Championship. The Tide then knocked off UF in Meyer’s final season in Gainesville, with a 31-6 decision in Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2010.

After Monday’s practice, the team will break for Christmas. The squad will return to Tuscaloosa for a Friday practice, then leave for New Orleans next Saturday.


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