Saban Consistent In His Approach

Is there anyone who can imagine Alabama Coach Nick Saban saying something along the lines of how he'd like to run up the score to impress the voters in football polls?

Actually, it wasn't a horrible question at Alabama Coach Nick Saban's regular Monday press briefing. It was part of some discussion during the day regarding the national polls, which lead to some extent to the national championship. But anyone who has been around Alabama's coach very much knew the gist of the answer.

The question was linked to the current national logjam at the top of various polls. Three teams—Texas, Alabama and Penn State—are undefeated and ranked one, two, three. Only two teams can make it to the BCS National Championship Game. Over the weekend, it was suggested by at least one national television commentator that "style points" matter in the polls. It's not just a matter of winning, the analyst said, but how a team looks in winning.

Thus the question from a local TV guy about the importance of winning the "beauty contest" as well as the game.

Saban, who can go into a tirade over a question about an extra point, delivered a measured response. It was also a predictable answer, and a correct one.

"We don't focus on that," Saban said. "We are just trying to get our team to play as well as they can play. We are not concerned about that and we're not concerned about the rankings or ratings.

"We want our team to play the best football they can play. We'd like to get our players, individually, to play to their capacity, as well as our team to play with consistency and to their capacity and focus on improving and consistency. I think those are things we can control and those are the things we focus on and want to try to do.

"Those external factors are created for fans, which is great, and for the media, which is great, and it creates a lot of interest in our game. But, as competitors, we have to focus on what we are doing and do it well.

"There is a lot of good competition our there and so for everybody to continue to improve, so that we can get better are the things we need to be focusing on."

Alabama is 8-0 and ranked second in the nation. The Crimson Tide is coming off a 29-9 win over Tennessee that improved Bama's Southeastern Conference record to 5-0.

Alabama gets a break from SEC play this week. It is homecoming at Alabama and the Tide will host Arkansas State. Arkansas State is coming off a bye week. The Red Wolves (as they are politically correctly known these days) are 4-3 with two notable scores: they defeated Texas A&M, 18-14, at College State in the first game of the season, and the next week put up 83 points in a win over Texas Southern.

Kickoff Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 2 p.m. CDT. The only television coverage will be on a Pay-Per-View basis.

In his opening statement, Saban repeated the theme of post-game Tennessee. He said, "I am proud of the way our players competed in the game. We played a complete game from start to finish, actually kind of played a little better as the game went on. We had to deal with a lot of adversity in the game, I think especially defensively. I think there was a lot of perseverance by the offense, in struggling early to block some of their pressures and then got better and had some guys do a really nice job of staying focused and playing the next play. The coaches did a good job of making the adjustments that we needed to make in the game and I think that all contributed to it. Obviously, the most important thing is taking care of business week in and week out, playing with consistency and hopefully building on the idea of playing 60-minute football games and keeping your intensity and focus on what you need to do to be successful."

Saban said Tide players got "bruised up" playing against Tennessee in a very physical game, but that no one was expected to miss practice except nose tackle Terrence Cody. Cody was injured in the previous game, against Ole Miss, and will also miss this week's game.

Regarding the importance of avoiding injuries, Saban said, "I think it's paramount. When you can stay healthy and keep continuity with your players and not have a lot of injuries and disruptions. It's certainly beneficial to improvement and it's certainly beneficial to team chemistry, guys playing together and knowing what to expect and that's been positive for us and hopefully that will continue and be positive for us down the road as well."

And as he always does in discussing Bama's good injury luck, he tapped on the wood lectern in front of him.

Saban said, "This is a challenging game for us. Arkansas State, I think, has a very good football team. Steve Roberts has been there for seven years. They've got good players. They've lost three very close games. They score a lot of points. They've got a very good defensive team. They are a ball-hawking team. They are one of the top teams in turnover margin, at plus 10. The quarterback does a fantastic job of executing their offense. He is probably as good a double-threat guy as we have played against, in terms of being a passer and a runner and making plays with his feet.

"They played really well against Texas a year ago in the opener and beat Texas A&M this year (18-14 in College Station and scored 83 points in a game.

"They have a defensive end (junior Alex Carrington, who has 14 tackles for loss and 9 sacks and leads the nation with 2.0 tackles for loss) who can play for anybody. He is really a good player. They have really good special teams. Their field goal kicker (Josh Arauco) is 15 for 15 (also 26 for 26 extra points).

"They run the ball as well as anybody and they can throw it and make big plays. This is a good team. I know sometimes people don't have the proper respect for these teams, but this team certainly has done enough this season, in terms of what they have accomplished week in and week out, to garner everyone's respect."

Asked for specifics about Arkansas State's offensive schemes, Saban said, "They are a multiple personnel grouping. They play four wide outs. They play three wide outs and a tight end. They run some zone option. They run power running game. They have a lot of good play-action passes as well as a vertical passing game that they do a good job with as well. They are very, very multiple in what they do and it's going to be very, very challenging for our players to prepare to be able to know what to expect in all the circumstances they present, as well as how to react to what they like to do in those circumstances. They will run some option and they will run some zone-read kind of stuff, but that is not all they do."

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