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Everything Alabama coach Nick Saban Said About Playing Georgia Again

January 3, 2022
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ATHENS - Kirby Smart's Georgia Bulldogs are getting ready to take the field for the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Here is everything Nick Saban said about the matchup Monday.

FanDuel has opened up with Georgia being a 2.5-point favorite over the Crimson Tide. It is the second time Alabama has been an underdog since the 2015 game. Alabama won both contests.

COACH SABAN: I think it's pretty obvious that we're very, very proud of our team, all the people who have worked hard throughout the course of the year to create this opportunity for our team. The team's overcome a lot of adversity and resiliency through the course of the year. And really, really extremely proud of the way they've sort of put themselves in a position to have a chance to win a championship. It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us to play against, I think, one of the best teams or the best team in the country in terms of consistency and performance and how they played all year long.

Georgia's got a really good team. They've got great balance on offense, defense, special teams. They've got really good specialists. So this is a really, really good all-around team. And practice, preparation is going to be really, really important for us to go out there and be able to execute the way we need to to be able to have any chance of success at all.

Q. The word "warrior" has been thrown around your program a lot, used to describe players. What does that tag line mean to you when you say it about a player? And how important is that for your team, how important is that label for your team?

COACH SABAN: I think the warrior mentality just is sort of a great compliment to the kind of competitor somebody is. I think it speaks to your intangibles, your intensity and ability to sustain and play with great energy and enthusiasm.

So, it's, to me, the ultimate compliment to a competitor to be a warrior, war daddy, whatever you want to call them. And that's something that we really try to get our players to buy into, because it does create tremendous value for them when they compete at that kind of level and with that kind of standard.

Q. I'm wondering how you balance the need to maybe change some things because you're seeing an opponent again with also, hey, maybe we should just stick with what works here. What are the challenges there when you're facing an opponent for the second time, especially in such a short period of time?

COACH SABAN: I think it sort of speaks to itself in terms of we're obviously going to evaluate how we did in the last game, how they're going to evaluate how they did in the last game. They're going to try to take advantage of things we did. We're going to try to take advantage of things and correct things we didn't do well. And, I think, in that there are some subtle changes that you need to make so that you put your players in the best chance to be successful.

They're always going to see something new and different. So players are always going to have to adapt in the game. I don't think you do everything the same, but I also don't think you can make a lot of changes that the players are not going to go out and be able to play and execute with confidence. So the changes you need to make sort of relative to the things that you did well or didn't do, and some of the things that they were able to take advantage of that you need to make sure you make adjustment to.

Q. I was wondering how you would characterize Greg Sankey's leadership of the SEC during your time there?

COACH SABAN: I think it's been outstanding. I don't know why you would ask me that question. But it's certainly not my position to judge. But Greg has done an outstanding job. He's very bright. I think he has the best interests of college football in his heart and mind at all times. And I think he's really worked hard not only for the conference but also for the game. So I've had a tremendous amount of respect for Greg for a long, long time.

Q. I know you had a couple of injuries on the offensive line. Could you provide an update on those guys? And I know one is (indiscernible). And why was that unit so effective against Georgia in the SEC Championship game?

COACH SABAN: I think, first of all, from an injury standpoint, we really don't have a lot of updates. We're practicing today for the first time. So we'll kind of see how these guys progress during the week. We're hopeful that we'll get some guys back.

But I think if you're going to have any success against any team, especially against a team that has the number one defense in the country, it probably starts up front. So for our offensive line to play well and be effective -- whether it's a run, whether it's a pass, regardless of what the circumstance is -- I think most plays are going to start with how well can we do up front against an outstanding front seven unit who's proven that all year long.

So we're always trying to prepare our players to play extremely well, and we need to do it in this game. And if we're going to have any kind of success offensively it will start off on this game as well.

Q. You guys had a rematch situation in 2011, playing LSU a second time in the championship game. What kind of lessons did you learn from that experience?

COACH SABAN: I don't know that that experience is going to have anything to do with this experience. We've got a different team. They've got a different team. They've got a good team.

So, you know, I don't know. Our players were focused in the game. Those two games were extremely hard-fought, close games in both circumstances. And I would expect the same in this game. I think both teams sort of realized where they are. The opportunity that they created for themselves and everybody's going to be really zeroed in on trying to do the best job they can to take advantage of it.

So I don't know that there's anything that I can really take from that experience that's going to have any effect or impact on this one.

Q. How has this team changed since October 9th and the loss to Texas A&M? And could you speak specifically about the last two games, featuring the pass, I guess, against Georgia and Bryce, and featuring Brian, the ability then to feature Brian in the last game, the last semifinal?

COACH SABAN: I think that losing a game gave our team an opportunity to mature. We have a really, really young team. We don't have very many seniors that play a significant role, I don't know, three or four starters on the whole team. So I think with young players who sort of had a lot of success in terms of wins prior to the Texas A&M game, maybe a lost respect for winning or what it takes to prepare to win on a consistent basis.

I think it made people realize the importance of leadership, setting a good example, holding each other accountable. I think there were a lot of internal lessons that actually helped this team mature and grow. And most of the time when people don't have success, they learn from it more readily than when they have success. And I think that was certainly the case for our team.

Q. Along the same lines, what you just asked, we all know how much talent you guys lost from last year's team but you also lost some pretty darned good leaders. How impressed have you been with how this team has evolved and kind of grown to get to this point?

COACH SABAN: I think that's been a really important factor for us, is that some of the leadership emerged during the course of the season as young players had more success and felt the need for them to step out and be the leaders because we just don't have a lot of seniors our team.

And I think that's been very, very helpful in people setting a good example and people holding each other accountable to be able to prepare the way you need to prepare to go out and play well against good teams.

Q. What allowed Brock Bowers to be so impactful the first time you guys played? And what have you seen from him in the game since Michigan?

COACH SABAN: I think this guy is one of the premier players in college football. I know he's just a freshman. But this guy's got great size. He's a good blocker. He's physical. He's tough. And he's got wide receiver skills in every way, shape or form, which makes it difficult being a bigger guy for bigger guys to cover him and it makes it also difficult for smaller guys to cover him.

So this guy is just a phenomenal football player all the way around. They do a really good job of featuring his talents as well. And he's been extremely productive in a lot of ways, academically and athletically. I know everybody always knows the passes he catches, but also a really good blocker and does a good job in his part of executing whatever he needs to do to help his teammates have success as well.

Q. Being an underdog to Georgia worked pretty well for you last time. Looking back on that, how were you able to maybe use that to your advantage, and how might you use it to your advantage as you're indeed a slight underdog this time?

COACH SABAN: I don't know. Being an underdog is being an underdog. They have a really good team that's very well respected. We have a tremendous amount of respect for them.

And I think it's important for our players to know what they need to do to be able to continue to have success in the next game, regardless of what happened in the last game. And regardless who was favored and who was underdogs and all that kind of stuff. Everybody has pride in performance. Everybody wants to go play well. And we certainly want to do everything as coaches that we can to help our players go out and play well and compete well in a game.

Q. I know you don't like to look back in the past, but 15 years ago today you landed in Tuscaloosa, I'm looking at video right now. It was quite the scene when you landed. What was that experience like that day, if you remember, and what has the last couple of years been here at Alabama for you?

COACH SABAN: Well, I'm 70 years old, so I don't think I have any form of dementia or anything like that. But I can't really remember what happened 15 years ago. I remember coming here. I remember it was great to have the energy and the enthusiasm, excitement that all the people sort of created. And that's what helped us be successful here, that energy and enthusiasm that people showed for the program and the support of the program.

But other than that, I don't even remember any emotions that I had 15 years ago. Been a lot of games, a lot of third downs since that time. So it's kind of hard to remember, but it's been a very good experience here.

We've got a great sort of organization at the University of Alabama from the top down to our administration and how they support our athletics, to our athletic directors that we've had that always set the table well for us so we have an opportunity to be successful in terms of how we support and try to create value for our players -- personally,

And I think that's been a real key to the success here is because of the team that we have. I'm talking about a team of people who try to create a positive atmosphere and environment for players to have a chance to be successful in.

Q. I'm curious about the semifinal games, they were both blowouts. Do you feel like going to an expansion with 12 teams would maybe help that and create more competitive games, or do you think that would diminish the regular season too much?

COACH SABAN: Well, I don't necessarily agree with your assessment of our game. I can't speak to the other game. But it was a really hard-fought game for us, I think. And we have a tremendous amount of respect for the team that we played.

I don't know that expanding -- if this is the best four teams and they played each other, I don't see the logic in it if we had more teams there would be better games. I don't know how that adds up.But I am really not in a position to answer that. There's a lot of other good teams, whether it was their consistency in performance or whatever happened to them in championship games or whatever, that may have had the opportunity to get in the playoffs that didn't.

But, look, I'm not the one that needs to be deciding what the playoff needs to be. There's a lot of good people out there that can make a decision as to what's best for college football.

But the more we expand the playoffs, the more we minimize bowl games, the importance of bowl games, which I said when we went to four. So I don't think that's changed. And I think it's also come to fruition.

 

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