Alabama head coach Nick Saban made his intentions for Iron Bowl week known quickly, barely mentioning the 49-0 win over Western Carolina and the Players of the Week for the week of the matchup with the Catamounts.
“I just want to make everybody understand here that we’re not in any conversations about anything other than the game that we’re playing,” Saban said with a hint of disdain. ”Unless we win the next game, we don’t have another game. We’re trying to work our way into a conversation by how we play. We’re not trying to hold a position. We’re trying to create one by what we do and how we play.
“Everybody in this organization needs to understand that we’re dismissing all talk about anything except playing Auburn.”
Not only does beating Auburn have a great impact on the Tide’s goals for the season, like an SEC Championship game berth, it also has a great impact on the legacy of the team and Saban, as the Iron Bowl can and has decided a coach’s fate.
“The Iron Bowl is a big deal,” Saban said. ”It’s a legendary game that people remember for a long, long time and still talk about games that happened in the past, had huge impacts and effects on the future of what happened. And they’re traditionally very, very tough games. It’s important that we play our best game.”
Friend turned foe?
Much has been made about the Crimson Tide’s search for its 12th and final opponent for the 2013 season, plus the slots that follow it in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons. The Denver Post is reporting that the Tide has found a program to fill the final slot for next season and take up another in the future, the Colorado State Rams.
Let the record show the Post’s report is not supported by Saban.
“When we sign a contract to play a game, we’ll announce it,” Saban said. ”That’s up to our administration. Whenever that happens, I think that’s up to them, it’s not up to me. We’re still looking for a game next year. I will confirm that.”
The Rams are coached by Jim McElwain, who is in his first season at the helm at Colorado State after being Alabama’s offensive coordinator for both the 2009 and 2011 national championship seasons. The Rams currently stand at 3-8 after winning the season opener against hated rival Colorado before going on a six-game losing streak.
The Rams beat Hawai’i and UNLV this season and will wrap up the 2012 campaign with a home game versus New Mexico.
Taking a final bow
For the seniors and potentially some juniors, the Iron Bowl on Saturday will be their last game as a member of the Crimson Tide in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The thought of saying goodbye to their home stadium is generating thoughts of just how quick it all went by.
“I feel like I just got recruited. It has flown by,” linebacker Nico Johnson said.
Safety Robert Lester added, “It seems like just yesterday I was redshirting and struggling trying to learn plays.”
The seniors are trying to put the emotions of the affair behind them and focus on leaving Bryant-Denny Stadium for the final time as victors.
“Of course, I want to go out with a ‘W.’,” Lester said. ”It’s the last time playing at Bryant-Denny. It’s sad but it’s exciting at the same time, and I can’t really explain what it feels like until that moment actually comes but I know I’m going to miss playing here.”