OPENING STATEMENT: Nick Saban’s Press Conference

We had a very, I would say, acceptable bye week last week in terms of the work and the things we were able to do. A lot of opportunities for a lot of players to improve and get a lot of repetitions, for the young players especially, to get closer to being able to play winning football.

This is obviously the most challenging part of our season. We need everybody’s energy. We need everybody’s focus and intensity to prepare for the games, on this game in particular. This part of the season always defines you as a team and creates a total identity for the team that you are. Good preparation and focus is really important.

LSU has gotten better as the season is going on. Probably the worst thing that happened for all of us in the SEC was when they lost to Troy. They really made a turnaround as a team, which I think speaks volumes of their coaching staff and the job Ed Orgeron has done there to get the players to re-center, re-focus, work on improving. They’ve been very productive since that time and playing very, very well as a team.

The game has turned into a huge rivalry through the years, since I’ve been here especially I guess, but probably even before that. Since 2007, I think both teams have been ranked in the top 20 in each one of these games that we’ve played and I don’t think this one is really any different.

LSU has done a great job of taking care of the ball on offense. They only have like five or six turnovers through the whole year. Offensively, they’ve done a great job of running the ball. They’ve got a great running back. The quarterback has been very efficient in his passing and how he runs the offense. Have a great receiver in number 7. Their defense is ranked nationally in a lot categories and has played very well. A pretty typical sort of LSU team in terms of how they play and what they’re doing, and what they’re doing very, very well. They’re always good on special teams, because they have really good team speed. They’ve got really good returners. They’re very good in the return game. All around, I think this is probably the best team that we’ve played to this point in the season, especially the way they’re playing right now. And this will be certainly the most challenging game that we’ve had to this point.


I think what you really want from the players is to be able to prepare well so that when the game comes they’re really focused on what they need to do, and all the shifts and motions, and tackle over unbalanced, and rocket motion, and all that sort eye candy I call it for a defensive player, makes the guy not focus on the real keys and play fast. You got to play the plays and do your job. It is a little different, especially from anything that we’ve seen this year. But having a little extra time is probably a good thing when you play an offense like this, because there are a lot of multiples in terms of formations and motions and how the defensive players need to understand and adjust.


We haven’t seen them this week. We will practice today for the first time. Both those guys will practice today. We’ll just go day-to-day with them and see how they progress. We feel like they’ve responded well to treatment. They’re both in position and have been cleared medically to practice. But it still comes down to how a player feels he can function and do his job and we won’t know that until we progress through the week.


I think that’s what you hope for. You hope that your team really understands what it takes to be more physical and play against a team that tries to be physical. How important it is to win on the line of scrimmage. How important it is to be well prepared and well focused in the game. I think, again, that goes back to that energy deal. When you have the right kind of mental intensity, your energy is good, your focus is good, your preparation is good, you go into the game with a lot of confidence, you have the right mindset to be physical. I think all those things are really important in a game like this. The players who have been here and played in this game before, they should really understand that.


Hootie has done a marvelous job this year, especially in terms of the consistency he’s played with. Hootie has improved every year that he’s been here. I think now he has a lot of confidence in what to do, how to do it, why it’s important to do it that way, and I think he plays faster because of it. And he’s made more plays because of it. We’re really pleased the way he’s progressed through his career here and the way he’s performing right now for our defensive team.


Well, we have a lot of confidence in Bo. We’re not disappointed at all in what Bo has done to this point in the season. I think Bo is a guy that can certainly be a physical, dominant sort of player, and at times this year he has been that. Because Damien Harris has played extremely well, maybe he hasn’t had quite the opportunities that he had a year ago. But I’m sure that at some point in time this season you’ll see him sort of break out and show what he can do and his presence will be felt. We have a lot of confidence in his ability to do that.


I couldn’t care less about the poll. What significance does a poll have right now? All we’re talking about here right now is the challenge of our season. And where are we going to be in the poll if we don’t play well in our next four games? So I’m focusing on the next four games. I couldn’t care less about the poll. You won’t see me wasting any time watching TV or watching who’s one or who’s two. It really doesn’t matter. What really matters is how you play the rest of the season, how you focus the rest of the season, how you stay focused rest of the season. If our players think anything of it, then that could be a problem and an issue, too. These are the things that we try to categorize as poison, that you really don’t want your players to be focusing on or thinking about. But I appreciate you asking so I could get this off my chest.


I don’t think that anything that happened in that game probably is going to affect the outcome of this game. I think they did a really good job of lots of fires, a lot of loading the box trying to stop the run and make sure Jalen couldn’t pull the ball. And we probably expect a lot of the same things. And we had other teams do that. I think we’re more well-equipped to handle things like that now. It’s going to come down to our ability to execute those things well in the game.




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