Alabama a monster with five weeks of preparation
BY MIKE BERARDINO For the Sun-Times January 5, 2013 1:00AM
The Alabama defense swarms Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in September. Quarterbacks who’ve faced the Tide in national title games know that feeling well. | Leon Halip~Getty Images
BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
NOTRE DAME VS. ALABAMA
Time: 7:30 p.m. Monday in Miami Gardens, Fla.
TV: ESPN. • Line: Alabama by 91/2.
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:44AM
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — C.J. Mosley didn’t deny the suggestion that his dreams these days typically include full sequences starring the Notre Dame offense.
Instead, the Alabama linebacker smiled and nodded Friday when asked about how much preparation goes into his team’s 37-day run-up to Monday’s BCS national championship game.
‘‘We pretty much watch their film every day,’’ Mosley said. ‘‘Just trying to get into the rhythm of what they do, trying to go over different things they do or that they might be able to do. Once the game comes, hopefully we’ve watched enough film that we’ll be able to stop them.’’
Recent history suggests no coach in college football does more with extended preparation time than Alabama’s Nick Saban. His last three Alabama teams have outscored opponents by a combined 107-28, including a pair of national title wins over LSU (last year) and Texas (2009 season).
Add in Saban’s first title game nine years ago, when he coached LSU to a 21-14 win over Oklahoma, and you see why his postseason reputation has reached epic proportions.
‘‘I think with any team, if you give them a month to prepare, they have an ability to tear a team apart,’’ Notre Dame receiver T.J. Jones said. ‘‘Some teams may be better at it than others. Nick Saban’s team has been known to do that.’’
It’s not just the third-and-seven tape of the blitzing Alabama defense that can leave an opponent ‘‘demoralized,’’ as Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said.
It’s just as risky to pop in the tape of Saban’s three previous championship outings.
Sooners quarterback Jason White, coming off a Heisman Trophy season, learned first in New Orleans. White was sacked five times and managed just 2.8 yards per attempt on a 13-for-37 passing night. Oklahoma was held to 154 total yards, including 52 on the ground.
Three years ago in Pasadena, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was sidelined with a shoulder injury after two pass attempts, giving way to untested Garrett Gilbert, who threw four interceptions. The Longhorns did manage 276 total yards, but their five turnovers and a 24-6 halftime deficit proved too much to overcome in a 37-21 defeat.
One year ago in New Orleans, Saban’s defense dominated LSU in a 21-0 BCS romp. Senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson looked confused all night as the Tigers were held to 92 total yards.
Did the Tide defense feel like it knew what LSU was going to run before the play even started?
‘‘Oh, yeah, it did feel that way,’’ Alabama safety Robert Lester said. ‘‘They’re not going to change their system for one game. You’re definitely going to see things you’ve already seen before.’’
Lester is one of three defenders to see significant playing time in Alabama’s previous two BCS title game appearances. Linebacker Nico Johnson and defensive end Damion Square are the others.
No one needs to remind them about Saban’s magic at these winner-take-all events.
Saban’s three BCS title victims have produced averages of 174 total yards, 57 on the ground. They have committed nine turnovers, including seven interceptions, and managed a .427 completion percentage.
Per play, those opponents produced just 3.7 yards on 184 total snaps: 2.8 yards per pass attempt and 1.95 yards per carry.
Several Alabama players said they take pride in Saban’s reputation for producing shut-down game plans and have no plans to damage that.
‘‘It seems like we haven’t played football in so long,’’ Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner said, ‘‘but five weeks off, if you handle it the right way and learn and teach and focus in for those five weeks, I think you’ll be fine. I think we’ve been doing a great job with our five weeks.’’
Saban’s bowl teams typically do.