Crimson Tide Goes Back To Work

Before Alabama had a break for Christmas, the practice emphasis was on the fundamentals. "Back to basics" is how it was described as the Crimson Tide had a few days of tough work last week.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban seemed pleased with the effort and attitude of the Crimson Tide football team in that first phase of preparation. Beginning Sunday, the emphasis changes to the extent that practice will begin to focus on the upcoming game. Bama will practice in Tuscaloosa through Thursday, then fly to Southern California on Friday. A normal game week of preparation gets started Saturday.

A "normal week" insofar as anything can be normal at a bowl site. And the situation is altered even more by the stakes. The upcoming game is the national championship game against Texas. The Bowl Championship Series national championship game will be January 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Both teams are 13-0.

Prior to last week's break, All-America linebacker Rolando McClain met with reporters. He had not yet begun to study Texas, but had general thoughts about the challenge presented by the Longhorns.

?"They are obviously a very good team," McClain said. "They have a great quarterback who has good receivers around him. We just have to do what we've been doing this entire year and that is just playing our style of football. Coach (Nick Saban) always says it is not about what they do, it's about what we do. So we just have to go out and play our game and I think we'll be all right.

?"I really haven't watched too much film on Texas, but just going on by what I've seen in previous games on television the offense goes through (quarterback) Colt McCoy. So we just have to do a good job of affecting him and limiting his ability to run and trying to get some pressure on him to get the pocket to collapse some, so that he doesn't have as much time to throw the ball."

Prior to the break, Saban said he might "tweak" work on the final day of practice. Although a full scrimmage may not have been in the works, Saban indicated a practice that would be more "game-like." Bowl practice in any case is something of a balancing act, filling more time than is usually available without going overboard on practice.

McClain said, "Coach has done a great job so far with scheduling practice. We don't want to practice too much, and we don't want to practice too little. Everybody feels good about it. We'll just have to do a good job making sure everybody stays in shape. We didn't really stay in shape for last year's game and that's something we're trying to work on now."

Alabama had a very disappointing Sugar Bowl loss to Utah last year, a game that followed the Tide's first loss of the season in the SEC Championship Game.

Although McCoy, who twice was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, won basically every quarterback award this season, he's not the only quarterback who will be in the BCS National Championship Game. In his last outing, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy out-dueled former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow of Florida.

Because Alabama practice includes the first offense working against the first defense, McClain knows what it's like to face McElroy. "He's just a smart quarterback," McClain said. "In practice he does a great job of trying to recognize most of our coverages and picking out where we are going to blitz from. I try to just step down to him and change things while he changes things. I guess in practice and camp he is pretty good at making some reads, so I'm trying to be on top of my game as much against him as any other quarterback."

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