Alabama plays Iowa State Thursday the 27th, at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana. The game starts at 6:30 pm (CST) and will be telecast by ESPN. Both teams are unranked. The Cyclones finished at 7-4, third in the northern conference of the Big 12. Alabama enters the game at only 6-5, but a three-game winning streak to end the season guaranteed the Tide a winning season and a bowl berth.
"This is a great bowl for us," Franchione said. "We're excited about the way we finished our season. This will give us the chance to go for our fourth win in a row. These guys did everything we asked them to do as far as working and staying together. The opportunity to play a school like Iowa State and to be in a bowl like this. We're looking forward to it."
For his part, Cyclone Head Coach Dan McCarney has practically fallen over himself in praising the Tide. "They finished up by really playing lights out," McCarney said. "The two games I saw earlier in the year when they played Arkansas, and they dominated a real fine 7-4 team. And late in the year they dominated a real fine Auburn team. That gives you an idea about their ability. We'll have our hands full."
Though neither team sports a particularly impressive record, the quality of competition makes the respective records somewhat deceiving. "The Big 12 and the SEC, who are we kidding?" McCarney said with a laugh. "Those two are the two best conferences in college football. There are a lot of great athletes and coaches in those leagues."
It's of course commonplace for the two coaches facing off in a bowl game to praise each other, but in the case of Franchione and McCarney the admiration seems genuine. "I've known Dan for 7 to 8 years now, and I have a great deal of respect for what he's done," Franchione said. And I have a great deal of respect for Iowa State. They've tried to do things the right way. They went through a lot of trials and tribulations. I admire the job that Dan has done. We've talked a few times about several things. Our wives have gotten to know each other, and we've become pretty good friends."
McCarney returned the compliment. "Dennis Franchione is one of the top coaches in college football. We're very much looking forward for the chance to play them."
Franchione reported that 120 athletes made the trip to Shreveport, and that every player reported safe and sound by the deadline. "That's got to be some kind of record for Alabama and bowl games," commented a source close to the team.
"I like the way this week plays out," Franchione said. "We'll practice tomorrow as a normal Tuesday practice. It'll be just like going to a game during the season.
"We got our game plan put in back in Tuscaloosa. We had good work. I was very pleased with it. We developed our entire game plan, so our time spent here will be as a review process."
As for the Iowa State Cyclones, Coach McCarney and his players were late for the press conference and later bowl part because their practice ran late. "We had a real focused, physical practice," McCarney said. "We put the pads on. We're getting ready to play one of the best teams in college football. We just didn't feel like we could take a day off."
Almost certainly taking their lead from their head coach, the Iowa State players admire Alabama's history but are determined not to be intimidated. "You've got to respect that tradition," said Cyclone defensive lineman Jordan Carstens. "But we're playing these athletes, not that tradition."
Bama senior quarterback Andrew Zow shares Carstens' focus on the competition. "We have to play well. They're big up front. We'll have to bring our A-game and hope to pull it out. My first year was 1997, and we haven't won a bowl game yet. We're going to go out and try to win for our seniors."