TUSCALOOSA | When University of Alabama coach Nick Saban took LSU to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in 2001 and 2003, he faced teams he had already seen in the regular season (Tennessee in 2001, Georgia in 2003). He's not had the same scouting benefit in three trips to the conference's most grand stage -- including Saturday's clash with SEC East champ Georgia -- but the UA coach indicated Monday that preparation won't be an issue.
"We've played against Mark Richt-coached teams before. They've played against us before," Saban said. "Even though it is different and they do have different players, philosophically it's not like they're completely different than what you've played against before. And I'm sure they would say the same thing about us."
The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs have not played since Alabama handled a top-five Georgia team in Athens, Ga., 41-30, in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. Georgia Matthew Stafford threw two touchdowns in the game's final three minutes to stem some embarrassment. Only Alabama's fifth-year seniors, some of whom did not even make the trip to Athens as redshirting freshmen, were on that Alabama team.
The UA coaching staff also prepares players for future opponents at various times during the year to help game-week preparation go more smoothly, something that wasn't possible with Georgia because UA did not qualify for the title game until Saturday.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley said players have gained some familiarity with the Bulldogs this season while watching film of other SEC teams.
"We've seen their defense a lot because we've watched film on teams that we've played and Georgia played them," Mosley said. "So I guess our offense might have seen some things, but we really haven't seen much as far as the defense. We've got to prepare for this week like its just another week. We got four days, five days to get the job done."
According to linebacker Nico Johnson, the entire league does certain things in a predictable way, which can also be of benefit in preparation.
"There are some things they do that we've seen all year. That's what so good about playing throughout the whole SEC, you see a lot of things with teams week in and week out that you see with every one of them," Johnson said.
Saban said facing a team and/or a coaching staff that it has no history against can be more difficult than the task it faces this week.
"It's not like this is something we've never seen before. Sometimes when you play a new opponent that you have never played before and it's a new staff, it's a little bit different," Saban said. "You don't have the same history to call on. I don't know that it's that much different, to be honest with you."
While the players weren't introduced to a game plan until Monday, Mosley said the UA coaching staff has put in plenty of preparation entering the practice week.
"I'm pretty sure the coaches, they already have the game plan before we even started thinking about it," Mosley said. "We just have to go and do our job to make sure we execute. We can't use that as an excuse."
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.
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