Saban Reiterates 2009 Is Irrelevant

What do you get when you put a team that went 2-10 last year against the team that went 14-0 and won the national championship and returns, among other things, the Heisman Trophy winner? The coach of the 14-0 team thinks it's irrelevant.

Alabama, the team that was led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram to a 14-0 record and the 2009 national championship, opens the season Saturday hosting San Jose State.The Spartans went 2-10 last season and after that effort Mike McIntyre took over as head coach.

Kickoff Saturday in recently expanded (101,821) Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 6 p.m. CDT. The only television coverage is on a pay-per-view basis.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Monday, "We have all kind of agreed as a team that our record last year is pretty irrelevant to what we do this year. It won't have one thing to do with it. Therefore, I think that San Jose (State's) record last year will be totally irrelevant to what happens in this game as well.

"They have quite a few players back. They have a new coach. Mike McIntyre has a good coaching background, has been very successful, is a good coach and is going to do a good job there.

"Anytime you play against a new staff in the first game it's a little bit more difficult preparation because you're not sure about what they're going to do exactly. You're hoping that the coordinator is going to do what he did wherever he was, but you really don't know for sure because you don't have any evidence of it. It lends itself to defending a few ghosts, so to speak, both ways – offense, defense and special teams."

Saban said that he thought the coaches and players were all happy to be in the normal routine of game week. He did point out that it was "not totally normal," because Bama spent a little time preparing for the Spartans late last week.

Although few other than Saban view the Alabama-San Jose State game as anything other than a mismatch, the Tide coach knows that his team must be prepared for just about everything.

"In college football you see a multiple of different things that is amazing," Saban said. "The adjustments that you have to make from week to week are amazing." He said that "supposedly" San Jose State is using the same offense that Nevada-Reno did in leading the nation in rushing last year. That offense, Saban added, is "option type football that we have never really experienced before. That makes it a difficult preparation for us.

"But we have no evidence of that, so we are preparing for all kinds of stuff," Saban said. "Whether they have the personnel to do that or will run something totally different, we aren't sure and have no way of being sure."

This is a different opening for Bama than the previous two years, when Alabama went to neutral site Atlanta and took on top ten teams, Clemson and Virginia Tech, inconsecutive seasons.

Saban said that in 2008 and 2009 that Alabama preparation may have been helped because "when you open with a team that the players have a tremendous amount of respect for because of their national reputation, you get a little better attention to detail in the entire off-season, in spring practice and in fall camp because they are geared up for that game. I think in this case our players definitely respect the team that we're playing, they're showing good due-diligence in their preparation for the game, but I think they also know what challenges lie ahead. This is the beginning of a journey and I think it is about what we do and it's always been about that. It's not about the other team and that's the emphasis that we will still maintain with our players right now."

That journey, Saban said, is about defining the team's identity, and it can only be affected "by the people on the team," the coaches and players.

He said, "If you're a great competitor, you're looking forward to establishing the kind of competitive spirit that people look at you in terms of how you play. That's a very positive one for yourself, one that you play with great intangibles. You have great mental intensity. You have discipline to execute, you do things the right way and you make good judgments about how you play winning football. We've got a lot of guys that have an opportunity to do that. We're certainly looking forward to the challenge of doing that this year."

Saban doesn't expect to have all the answers until the games begin.

"I think that is ultimately what you have to learn about them," he said. "How are they going to compete on game day? I've said this before, some guys play better when the game comes, and some guys who practice pretty well don't compete nearly as well when the game comes and I don't think you can figure that out until the game comes.

"If hot peppers give you a belly ache, you can't figure it out until you eat hot peppers."

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