Saban opens Sugar Bowl slate on Thursday

The LSU Tigers opened bowl practice Thursday afternoon at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility. <br><br> However, before Thrusday's workout, head coach Nick Saban met with the media. Here are a few of his comments heading into preparation for the Nokia Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma.

"First off I need a personal favor from all the media here today. Today is Dec. 18, so 32 years ago today I got married. Since I have been recruiting, the presents and all that did not happen. You guys have got to do a good job for me on TV tonight telling Terry (Saban's wife) "happy anniversary". I would appreciate that. I hope everyone is ready to have a Happy Holiday. We certainly look forward to getting started with the challenge that we have with the game against Oklahoma. It is a great opportunity that our players have created for themselves and we certainly want them to look at it as an opportunity to kind of bring a combination of what has been a great season for them."

"A lot of players have contributed in a lot of positive ways and we want to do everything we can as coaches to help them play their best football in this particular game. I think our approach to this game has to be like it has been in games past. You are probably going to end up playing against one of the best football players you have played against all year, so you better get yourself prepared to do that by the way we work in the next couple of weeks in preparation for this game. We would have liked to have started practicing for this game the day after the SEC Championship game, but really it is kind of our theory that looking at a bowl game, even a game of this magnitude, is kind of a one-game season. The players need to get a little down time and take finals, do what they need to do so that that now when we get back into it they are ready to roll. We will spend three of four days working on fundamentals and then we will start our preparation for Oklahoma."

"Oklahoma is an outstanding football team. If you talk about a dominant program and a dominant team they are certainly that. They have the highest scoring offense in the country and the No. 1 total defense in the country. When Chad Lavalais and I went to the ESPN Awards Show last week for him being a finalist for the Outland Trophy Award, I know more about this team (Oklahoma) from that outing because they had about six or seven guys there and we had one. Chad and I decided that wasn't the time to pick a fight. They have a lot of good football players. I know five or six All-Americans and the Heisman Trophy winner in Jason White their quarterback. They are very well coached and have done a great job in their program. Bob Stoops (Oklahoma head coach) has done a great job there and has been a good head coach for a long time. This is going to be a very challenging game for us."

"Part of being a champion I think is how you deal with the clutter and all the things that go around a game like this. I am talking about clutter as what goes on in your mind. Everybody can be distracted by a lot of things but I think one of the things that we want our players to do is to focus on this game and the work that we need to do to play our best football of the year. That is what we want to start focusing on today. This is an opportunity that our players have created; our coaching staff has created, because of the hard work and what they have done all year long. My hat is off to our team. We had to beat three teams down the stretch that beat us the year before and they did what they had to do and I am very proud of the fact that the team chemistry and the players were able to do that for us."

On how you pace the time between the end of the regular season and the Bowl game
"Well I think you can start preparation for a game too early and I think you can practice too much for a game. I think the thing that you do not want your players to do is getting bored with the preparation or practice too much and then wear them down. We never won any bowl games at Michigan State but we sure did have some good practices. We practiced every weekend so the recruits could see it but I just think it is impossible to carry the momentum of the season into a game like this without totally backing everybody out because there is just too much time. We are going to have seven practices in six days here and then be off for four days and resume seven practices in New Orleans beginning on Dec. 28. I think anymore than 14 practices is too many and that is how many we are going to have for this game."

On what team Oklahoma is similar to that LSU has faced this season
"I do not really know but they are not a whole lot different in style and scheme on defense than how we play. In fact, we have visited a few times while we have been here with Mike (Stoops), who was the defensive coordinator and now the head coach at Arizona, because there are some similarities. I think on offense they use multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. Probably Alabama might be one of the closest teams at least in formations that you could compare Oklahoma too. They (Oklahoma) do a great job in execution and they are very athletic. They are probably the most athletic team that we have played on both sides of the ball. They probably run better than most teams that we have played so far. They are very multiple with what they do on offense. They have lots of personnel groups, a lot of formations, and they try to confuse you and make the defense adjust a lot. Their plays are not complicated but the adjustments can be."

"I think they have very good players and they run well. They are very well coached. I think on offense, the multiple formation groups are the same but they create a lot more adjustment problems for a defensive team than most people we play. They get in a lot of formations, like bunch formations, that other than against Alabama we have not seen a lot of this year."

On whether or not the loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game has shattered Oklahoma's confidence
"Every team has a chemistry. I would say that they would not be the team that they are if they were a fragile team. So I do not think something like that is going to affect them very much."

"I like what I do and I enjoy it. Even though it may not look like it sometimes, I enjoy it. I really do. I got home last night at 12:30 from recruiting and I enjoy that. I had a nice dinner. My mother gave me a whole box of Little Debbie cookies and I enjoy that. I am making the most of every situation."

On the LSU fans
"I think our fans are unique here- absolutely, and I do not think there is any question about it. I think their passion for football is great. I think people have a tremendous amount of pride in what we do. I mean to the point that no place else that I have ever coached, when somebody comes up to me and shakes hands and says congratulations on the game or winning the championship, that you see something in their eyes when it comes to their pride about what has been accomplished and how they feel about it. I have never seen that other places. That is coming from somewhere in the heart and it is very self-gratifying for a coach to feel like so many people feel very, very good and prideful about what has been accomplished and I always hope that we can take advantage of the next opportunity to make them feel any better."

On being mentioned for NFL jobs
"Well, we have worked hard here for four years to build what our goal was, and that was to have a dominant program that was nationally recognized. I think we have done that to some degree and we have a great opportunity ahead of us to play for the national championship and I am pleased and proud of all that and I am very happy to be here. I have not talked to any teams and I do not intend to talk to any teams and we are happy to be here. I want the focus to be on this game for our team and I do not control what people put in some newspaper somewhere far, far away, nor should I react to any innuendo about it. I always say history is the best indicator of what the future might bring and this has happened before and I am still here. I am happy to be here and I am looking forward to the challenges that we have in this program and where we are going. We are having a good recruiting year this year and we have a lot of good players on our football team and this is a great place to coach and I am happy to be here."

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