Alabama Coach Nick Saban was characteristically complimentary of the upcoming opponent, even though that will be a hard sell this week.
Saban isn’t worried about convincing Alabama fans of the worthiness of Tennessee-Chattanooga as an opponent on the next-to-last weekend of the regular season. Since all SEC teams are required to play a game this weekend, the Mocs are probably about the next best thing to an open date.
The Alabama coach almost certainly will have his team’s attention as he tells them what he told sports reporters Monday as the Crimson Tide prepares to host the Moccasins at 6 p.m. CST Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN2 will televise the game.
Saban said, “Chattanooga's a very well coached team. Russ (UTC Coach Russ Huesman) has done a really good job there. They're 8-2, one of the top teams in their division. They have 14 starters returning from last year's team. They basically do a really good job on offense with the quarterback run-type stuff and play-action game, which is difficult to defend. They really play hard on defense and special teams.
“This is a game that we need to focus on what we need to do technically to get better as a team and try to go out and play our best game and build on what we did the last game.”
What Alabama did last game was romp Mississippi State, 51-3, to improve to 10-0 and cement its spot as No. 1 in the nation, unanimously in those polls that reveal the vote.
One thing Chattanooga has done that may catch an eye is defeat Samford, 41-21. Calculation by comparative scores is highly unreliable, but the aforementioned Mississippi State defeated Samford 56-41.
In recapping last week’s victory over Mississippi State, Saban said, “We obviously did some good things in the game, made a lot of explosive plays on offense, executed in the passing game a lot more efficiently and effectively. Defensively, we made stops when we needed to, when they made plays. Their offense requires a tremendous amount of discipline for everybody to do their job. When we had little lapses here and there, they were able to make a few plays but we were able to get a stop for the most part when we needed to. Special teams-wise, I think there're definitely areas where we need to improve in. That's something we certainly want to focus on this week.”
Saban gave his team a day of rest from practice Monday.
He said this week he is reminded of the 'Shawshank Redemption' movie line, “You're either busy living or you're busy dying. It kind of means you're not going to stay the same.
“From my perspective, we're either going to get better or we're going to get worse. We're probably not going to stay the same.
“We need each unit on the team, each group on the team, each individual on the team to take ownership and be responsible for the things they need to do to work this week and improve as a team.”
On the injury front, Saban was not optimistic about a return offensive guard Alphonse Taylor, who has been out four weeks. He said, “I think that's a medical decision. I am not assuming that he's going to come back. It would be a bonus if he did. I don't think he will, based on the amount of time that we've had, so it's something that we're still evaluating but it's something that we're not counting on.
As for tailback Bo Scarbrough, Saban said, "Bo has a sprained knee. Medically, we think he's okay. He just has to go out there right now and get himself back in condition and develop confidence in what he needs to do. Like I always say, it's not just about what the doctor says. It's also about what the player says. Hopefully he'll be able to make enough progress in that area this week to be able to come back and contribute in the game."