Thursday, December 31, 2015

Can Nick Saban read Alabama's mindset in pregame warmups?

Are they ready?

How does the team look?

Are their heads in it?

They come in different variations but there's a constant theme to the pregame inquiries. They might, perhaps, fill an email box or Twitter mention for a beat writer. It's a question not easily answered since the interaction before game day is limited.

Turns out, even those closest to Alabama's football team have a tough time with it too.

"I don't really think ― I can't tell," Nick Saban said before Alabama's Cotton Bowl semifinal with Michigan State approaching at 7 p.m. CT Thursday. "I mean, maybe somebody can tell. I can't even tell that we're going to play for 60 minutes in the game once the game starts."

Alabama (12-1) has appeared focused all week, eager to correct the problems it had playing Ohio State in last season's semifinal. The mindset was not right entering that game, Saban and players have said all year.

The issue in the Tide's lone loss of 2015 wasn't a lack of focus. Saban said they were too fired up to play Ole Miss in September. Five Tide turnovers later, the Rebels left with a 43-37 win and

They've said all the right things in the days leading up to kickoff. Ultimately, however, it's impossible to know how they'll respond when the three-plus week layoff ends.

"I think you're always trying to focus on playing the next play," Saban said, "and making sure your guys are staying focused and doing the best job you can to sort of teach them as the game goes on, any adjustments that they need to make and things they need to do better. And so sometimes I think we have the right mindset and all of a sudden we have a lapse in the game and the other team goes on a three-play drive for 81 yards and scores a touchdown and gets right back in the game.

"And you're sitting there saying, "What happened?" So I don't think that you ever know for sure. I think you're always trying to work to make sure that you're keeping the right focus and mindset on your team as you play a game."

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