Alabama is 11-0, has already clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, ranks No. 1 in the nation, and is a 17-point favorite to defeat Auburn Saturday in a home game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. So, no need to be nervous, right?
Of course there is! For all those reasons. Lose to Auburn and all those good things are down the drain. And that’s not to mention the grief you get from the Auburns. People say it’s bragging rights for a year, but you’ve probably noticed that when Auburn upsets Alabama, the gab goes on forever.
In 1972, Auburn defeated Alabama by 17-16. For the next nine years, Alabama thrashed Auburn, but that didn’t stop pre-game parking lot blaring of the recording of the Tigers blocking two punts. The Tide has defeated Auburn in each of the last two years, but wouldn’t you like to have 6 cents for every time you’ve heard about Kick Six from three years ago?
On Saturday, Alabama, 11-0, will host Auburn, 8-3, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CST and CBS will televise the game.
The Auburns aren’t nervous. They are accustomed to being second best.
And guess who else isn’t nervous before a football game, even a game of such importance as this year’s Alabama-Auburn game?
If you guessed Bama Coach Nick Saban, you’re right.
Is he ever nervous – always nervous, even – in preparation or right before a game?
“I don’t know if nervous is the right word,” Saban said Wednesday. “I think that you stay a little up-tight or at least I do until I feel like the players really sort of 'got it' in terms of understanding what they need to do when you've had enough repetitions to get things right. So you feel like going into the game, there aren't a lot of questions in their mind about they need to do and how they should adjust.
“Then I think when the game starts, you're totally involved in the game and trying to make adjustments to whatever is happening in the game. You're worrying play to play, you're not really nervous or anything like that. I don't really know if nervous is the right word. I don't know if anxious is the right word. I would use the word 'concerned' that you have your players ready to play well."
Obviously Saban, whose teams have won four of the last seven national championships, ordinarily has hit team ready to play well.
As for what may concern him, Saban said, “I think in games like this that are big rivalry games where there's a lot of stuff going on around the game and all that, players have to really focus on execution. That's the most important thing in a game like this. Focusing on what you need to do in the game to play well and not get sort of semi-distracted by all the things that are going on around you, so you're not saying 'What if' and 'if only I'd have done this or that or whatever' and have a bunch of regret.
“So that's what we're trying to focus on with our players. We certainly made progress this week but we still have work to do. This is a great rivalry game and everybody looks forward to competing in it. I think our players would love to play their best football in this game.”
Saban had good news on the injury front, for those who may have been nervous about that. He said that offensive linemen Cam Robinson and Korren Kirven, who were injured in last week’s win over Chattanooga, “have practiced, and if they continue to make progress, they both will play. (Tailback) Bo Scarbrough has practiced more this week so we're hopeful he will continue to progress. Certainly looks a lot better this week."