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January 8, 2012

Time to play

NEW ORLEANS | Everything from game plan installation to media interviews to site-seeing is over now for the University of Alabama and LSU football teams.

Nothing left now but to play.

The BCS National Championship Game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the SuperDome Monday, and Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban's focus with his players has now narrowed to this: anxiety control.

"I think that the most important thing that players can do right now is just focus on the task at hand, focus on what it's going to take for them to play their best football, which I'm sure that's their goal in this game," Saban said Sunday. "So to get caught up in sort of what's happening around them and the anxiety that can go with an opportunity like this or the pressure that comes with an opportunity like this ... I would like for them to focus on the opportunity, not the pressure part, so that they really are zeroed into the mental practice."

Players for both teams have been in the Big Easy since Wednesday. LSU coach Les Miles said much the same about focus, but in the hours leading up to the game, he wants his players to take it easy at the same time.

"In the next 32 hours I want them to relax and get off their feet. You can't play the game until you play the game," Miles said Sunday morning. "Yet, it should all focus. When you are preparing for something that's significant, will provide you with significant lifetime memory, you need to qualify your want to participate, and it's a personal decision."

If Alabama's team takes a cue from Saban's Sunday morning demeanor, the Crimson Tide will be well-relaxed before the game as well. Saban drew plenty of laughs during his 20 minutes fielding questions from more than 100 reporters, touching on topics from pre-game spousal advice from wife Terry Saban, to his interaction with boys who came to his door when his daughter Kristen began dating. He humored the crowd with some self-deprication about his worst career coaching decisions, and at one point, the audio system amplifying his voice allowed some jazz music to interrupt an answer.

Saban's reaction?

"Who have we got playing back there? Got a little Al Green, man? Turn it up. Let's go."

After the press conference, Alabama traveled to the Superdome for a final walk-through and to take a team photo. A win Monday would give Alabama the 14th national championship in program history and its second in the past three years.

Following the game, the Alabama team won't take long to get back to Tuscaloosa.
Two Alabama team planes are scheduled to land at the Tuscaloosa airport 30 minutes apart, at 12:45 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.

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