Franchione confident at midway point

After playing six games in a row, Alabama got some much-needed rest last week. And according to Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione, the squad put the time to good use. <br><br>"We accomplished what we wanted," Franchione said. "We got a head start on preparing for Ole Miss."

The Mississippi Rebels are next up on Bama's schedule, and Ole Miss will bring a 5-1 record and No. 21 national ranking with it to Tuscaloosa. "This is a good football team," Franchione said. "Last summer I felt like they would be in the middle of this race. They're learning a new defensive scheme, but they've gotten better every week. They've got a lot of proven older players. They're always going to be a solid offensive team, and they're improving on defense."

The Tide benefited from its mini-vacation in several ways. Franchione explained, "We got refreshed. We got some rest. We evaluated ourself closely. But it's what you make of it on Saturday. The proof of how we come out of our open week will be how we play next Saturday.

Several players nursing injuries, including center Alonzo Ephraim, benefited from Bama's off week.

"We're looking for fresh legs and a little bit of freshness to our step."

For major injuries, the week off will have little effect. But after several games the entire playing rotation was hurting in one way or another. "Every one of our guys that had things bothering them last Tuesday are significantly better today," Franchione said Sunday night. "When you go through a season, you've got to practice sore on Tuesday. Good teams find a way to get through it. We'll get Monday off, which means they'll have had one practice in five days. It makes a difference.

"The biggest thing you notice is a little more freshness in the legs. And the nagging injuries get better."

Though he did acknowledge the return of Tyler Watts to practice last week, Franchione is sticking to his policy of not officially commenting on player injuries. "Part of it is I'm not sure who's going to be the starting quarterback yet," Franchione said. "The other part is I think it's good for teams to have to prepare for both. Tyler and Brodie (Croyle's) styles are a little bit contrasting."

Franchione's prohibition on injury talk differs from many other college coaches, even prompting comment (and a snide remark or two) from television "talking heads." But he's convinced it's the best policy. "I understand that (the media) has a job to do," Franchione acknowledged, "but all in all I don't see anything positive for my players about letting their injuries be public knowledge. I want to protect them as much as I can, and give them every opportunity to be successful."

Bama's open date last week will obviously help in regard to injuries, but sometimes the break in routine can end up being disruptive. After two tough losses last season to Ole Miss and Tennessee, the Tide was off for a week before its game with LSU.

It's a safe bet that Spencer Pennington (right) is still third string, but as to whether Watts (left) or Croyle (middle) will start Saturday, Franchione is staying mum.

Bama ended up playing easily its worst game of the year in a blowout loss to the Bengal Tigers. "I did not think last year that we bounced back well after our open week," Franchione said. "I've said many times that sometimes you're better off staying in rhythm and keeping playing. College-age athletes when they get away from it, sometimes you have to regenerate and start over."

This season different SEC squads have responded differently to their open weeks. "I certainly noticed the guys down the road Saturday," Franchione noted.

After beginning the season 4-1, Auburn had a week off. But the Tigers hardly benefited, getting blown out at home 38-17 by Arkansas---a team Bama had defeated handily earlier in the year.

"I thought Arkansas' effort Saturday was really good," Franchione said. "They deserve a pat on the back. To have gone through what they went through the last couple of weeks and then have to go play an 11:30 game on the road and win as demonstrably as they did…"

For his part, Franchione spent his rare free Saturday enjoying a non-stop marathon of college football. "It was great," he said. "Watch football was all I did. I watched football games (all day) until I couldn't stay awake any longer."

Coach Franchione got a rare chance Saturday to be just a fan.

Besides the Auburn/Arkansas contest, Franchione also had a close interest in the Oklahoma/Texas showdown. Earlier in the season the Tide dropped a close game on the road to Oklahoma, so the Bama coach had first-hand knowledge of the Sooners. And Franchione is friends with the North Texas coach, Darryl Dickey, whose Mean Green squad had taken on the Longhorns.

Franchione isn't ready to start his own touting service, but he did have the Red River Shootout pegged. "I didn't predict the score, but we talked about the game in our staff meeting and I said ‘I think Oklahoma would win because they're tougher.' And they were tougher."

The game was close for most of the afternoon, but Oklahoma ran over and around the Longhorns late to pull away to a convincing 35-24 win. "It's not that I knew a lot about Texas," Franchione revealed, "but I based my prediction on what Darryl Dickey said about their earlier game when we played North Texas."

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