Leonard Fournette/USA TODAY Images

Off week time for Alabama to look at itself and at LSU

Alabama’s Nick Saban looking at his team and also at LSU

There are two theories about a bye week. One is that if the team is playing well, the open date might break momentum. The other is that a football team sometimes needs the open date for rest and recuperation, and perhaps to make adjustments.

Alabama certainly has played well leading up to this weekend’s off week, the only bye week in regular season play this year. The Crimson Tide is 8-0 and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games. But these have been eight tough weeks, including five games against ranked teams and three straight difficult SEC contests. Moreover, the Crimson Tide is going to have to find a replacement for all-star senior safety Eddie Jackson, who suffered a season-ending broken leg in Bama’s 33-14 win over Texas A&M last week.

Alabama has another difficult game when it returns to action Nov. 5 at LSU, a game that will be played at 7 p.m. CDT and be televised by CBS.

Wednesday, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said he thinks the bye week is coming at a good time for the Tide. “We had eight straight games and four really tough SEC games, so for some guys to heal up and rest us is important,” he said. “The big focus for us is not to fall in love with what we’ve done in the past but focus on the challenges of the future. We have some big ones coming up. This next LSU game is obviously one of them. We have tremendous respect for them and their team and their players and coaches. We need to focus on what we need to do to improve as a team.”

Saban said that focus on improvement is self-scouting, “to look at your own tendencies, look at the things you’ve done well and look at the things you haven’t done as well as you’d like and try to focus on what you need to do to improve on those things. That’s certainly what we’ve been able to do this week.

“It also gives you a little chance to look at future opponents in terms of what they may present that may be different than what you’ve seen.

“That’s primarily the focus we have other than to get our players rested up and healthy, because it’s a long season for them, probably as much mentally and psychologically as physically.”

Saban has also been looking at LSU, which is coming off an impressive win over Ole Miss in which star tailback Leonard Fournette returned to action after having been injured much of the year. Fournette rushed for a school record 284 yards and three touchdowns against the Rebels.

Saban said, “We have a lot of respect for LSU and the things that they do. They’re well-coached. They’ve been able to run the ball extremely effectively. They have a really good play-action pass game that goes with them and some really good skill guys that can make big plays and the quarterback (Danny Etling) has done a nice job for them.

“This is a very challenging team based on the balance that they create and what they do and they probably play a little more two tights and two wides which is a good thing for them because it features the players that they have.

“We see some subtle differences in what they’re doing. I think the thing about it is, their execution has been really good. That’s usually what makes the difference.”

Insofar and the insertion of Etling at quarterback, Saban said, “He’s done a great job. He’s done a really good job. He understands the offense, makes good, quick decisions and has been able to throw the ball accurately and take advantage of the explosive plays they can make with the skill guys that they have.”

As for Fournette’s return, Saban said, “The guy is a fantastic player and has been a fantastic player. This is his third year in a row. I know he was a little banged up early on and missed a couple games. I haven’t really seen a guy dominate a game like he did that game for a long time. We have a tremendous amount of respect for him and he looks as good as ever and maybe even better.”

LSU has a new defensive coordinator this year in Dave Aranda. Saban said, “They play a lot more 3-4 type stuff, which is what he did when he was at Wisconsin, which they’re continuing to do. They play some even with that as well. The combination of those two things give you two totally different kind of fronts to try to block. Their players are extremely well coached and they do a really good job on defense and really good secondary and really good front seven. So this is probably the best defense we’ve played against all year long, top to bottom, front to back.”

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