Saban, Sumlin downplay recent history as colossal clash nears
Over the past five seasons, those words have been linked together time and time again. Big games against Florida come to mind. LSU, too. So do non-conference showdowns against Clemson, Virginia Tech and Michigan. There have been SEC championship games. National championship games.
ESPN’s College GameDay crew on site for an Alabama game? That’s become ho-hum news now.
The latest ‘big game’ for Alabama comes this Saturday when the top-ranked Crimson Tide (1-0) travels to No. 6 Texas A&M (2-0). And, yes, Kirk Herbstreit & Co. will be on hand.
While the national spotlight is nothing new for Alabama, it is something new for Texas A&M, which only last season burst onto the national scene with Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.
This is like Rascal Flatts sharing the stage with Thompson Square right? Maybe not. This is college football, not pro ball. Nick Saban has been around for all these big games, but the faces inside those crimson helmets have changed a lot over the past five seasons.
Sure, guys like AJ McCarron and CJ Mosley still dot the Alabama roster. But there are also a lot of first-year guys veterans like McCarron and Mosley are still trying to gel with just one game into the 2013 season. Forget the notion that this is Been-Around-The-Big-Game-Block Bama, as Saban pointed out Wednesday, this latest edition of the Crimson Tide is still in forge-its-own-identity mode.
“I think the advantage or disadvantage lies with what our players think,” Saban said. “What kind of identity do they want to create? What kind of purpose do they have? What kind of togetherness do they have? What kind of resiliency do they have? A lot of these things have not been tested with our team after one game. So that’s more the issue — this team.
“Nothing that’s happened in the past is going to help this team play well in this game. This team is going to have to do that based on what they do and the standard of excellence they play with. They have to prove they can do that because I’m not sure we have done that after just one game.”
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, too, stressed the irrelevance of recent history come Saturday.
“I think there’s a difference between both teams,” Sumlin said. “… There’s going to be a lot of people playing in this game Saturday that weren’t on that team from last year on both sides. So without going into a schematic deal, the personnel is different. This is a very, very different game than it was last year from a personnel standpoint based on the number of players that will not be on the field for both teams.”
The only thing certain about Saturday are the expectations. Alabama is expected to be very good this season. So is Texas A&M. And come Saturday they’ll go head-to-head. And a lot of eyes across the country will be watching.
“Obviously, it’s two great teams in the SEC playing,” MIssouri coach Gary Pinkel said of the Tide-Aggies showdown. “It’s going to be a great game.”
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