Saban Expects To Learn More About Tide

Alabama football is 17 games into the Nick Saban Era. One thing that hasn't changed since game one and will still be true in game 117 (or whenever) is that each game is part of the process.



"You learn about your team every time you play," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Monday. When Alabama went to Arkansas last week, the coach wanted to see if the Tide could play with consistency, attitude, effort and toughness in a road game. He thought that most of that was good, although technique was not always good.

This week there will be another opportunity for Saban to learn something about the Crimson Tide, and it will be in trying circumstances. Alabama goes to Georgia to take on the third-ranked Bulldogs in a game that will be nationally-telecast by ESPN.

Kickoff will be at 7:45 p.m. EDT (6:45 central time). Alabama, 4-0, is ranked third in the nation. The Crimson Tide is 1-0 in Southeastern Conference play after defeating Arkansas 49-14 in Fayetteville Saturday. Georgia is also 4-0 and has a 1-0 SEC record.

Saban said it "will be interesting" to see how Alabama responds to the task Saturday. "Playing one of the best teams in the country on the road will show our competitive character and if we can stay focused on what we need to do," he said.

Georgia opened the season ranked number one in the nation, but despite wins has fallen behind Southern Cal and Oklahoma.

"I don't think Georgia has underperformed," Saban said. "They are still one of the finest teams in the country." He said that some teams may have passed Georgia in the polls because of dominating their opponents more. "Sometimes it's the schedule," he said.

"On paper and the way they are playing, they could play for the championship in our league and maybe beyond that," Saban said.

The Tide coach said, "Obviously this is a very challenging game that we have. These are the kind of games that you should come to a place like The University of Alabama to play in. We've played at Georgia before and it is a good atmosphere to play a football game in. To be on national TV is great for our players but the most important thing is we stay focused on what we need to do on the field so we have the best chance to be successful.

"Georgia has an outstanding team. Undoubtedly one of the best teams in the country, top two or three for sure. A team that has been pretty dominant in the way they have played all season long on both sides of the ball and on special teams. (Georgia's) Mark Richt is an outstanding coach and has done a good job there. They won the Sugar Bowl last year and were very impressive last week against Arizona State.

"They have some outstanding individual players. Obviously a great running back in (Knowshon) Moreno, their quarterback (Matthew Stafford) is arguably the best quarterback in the country in terms of his passing efficiency, running their offense and his leadership. They have two fantastic wide receivers. (A.J.) Green and (Mohamed) Massaquoi both have big play ability and are big guys. Their defense is certainly one of the best defensive teams in the country. They are difficult to run against, are difficult to score against and have a lot of starters and a lot of experience back on the team. This team has balance offensively, they play well; they are coached well; that is why they are one of the best teams in the country.

"So it will be a real challenge for our team to play against one of the best teams in the country on the road. We need to stay focused on the things we need to do to improve as a team and play our best football."

Last year Georgia scored a touchdown on the Bulldogs' first offensive play in overtime to defeat Alabama, 26-23. Saban said, "The thing that stands out about the game is we lost in overtime. Both teams played hard. Early in the game we couldn't get off the field defensively and we struggled offensively. They made the play at the end to win."

Looking back at Arkansas, Saban said, "Our players really played hard and I am proud of the way they were physical in the game, controlled the line of scrimmage, ran the ball very effectively and really made plays in the game when we really needed to make them. Whether it was the goal line stand before the half, scoring after they scored in the first half-- Julio's (Julio Jones) touchdown--, and starting with a turnover in the second half, all those things are very important in being a good competitor and being able to respond to the tough situations in the game.

"Also there are a significant amount of things that we probably need to improve on. I think technically you would want the players to look at the game from the standpoint of how they executed, what needs to be done to get better at certain things in their game and as a team and certainly that is what we want our focus to be. I think our players were good that way in terms of the way they viewed this game this morning and looked at it to try and get better from it."

Alabama had a few players who appeared to be injured against Arkansas, including middle linebacker Rolando McClain, nose tackle Josh Chapman, and cornerback/kick return specialist Javier Arenas.

Saban said, "We don't have any injury problems. Rolando McClain is fine, Josh Chapman is okay, Javier Arenas is okay. We have some guys that are nicked up and sore but nobody should be out of practice. Hopefully we will be able to continue to work to improve."

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