Dec 27, 2019

Alabama focused on finishing strong in Vrbo Citrus Bowl

By Zach Seifter, Florida Citrus Sports

ORLANDO, Fla. — It may not be for all the Tostitos, but anytime it’s Alabama, it’s a big game.

The Crimson Tide, winners of five national titles in the last 10 years, are the gold standard in college football, led by arguably the greatest college football coach of all time in Nick Saban.

Typically, a 10-2 season and a trip to the Vrbo Citrus Bowl would be considered a pretty good season. And, well, it is a good season. But as Saban prepped his team a date with Michigan in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl, it was obvious that this challenge would be a little different.

“I think from a team standpoint, you know, we have a lot to prove,” Saban said following Friday’s practice at Celebration High School. “So I would like to see the guys that are in this class, and the seniors, and people who play their last game here have something to be proud of in terms of what they’ve accomplished and what they’ve been able to do.

“Because we’re all a little bit disappointed in the way things ended up for us this year,” Saban continued, referencing losses to LSU and Auburn during the season’s final month. “So this is an opportunity to make it right.”

It’s an opportunity for the rest of us too — to see how the hyper-competitive Saban handles this setting.

Last time the Tide played in this game — on New Year’s Day 2011, the last Alabama bowl trip that wasn’t a BCS championship game or CFP semifinal or final — ‘Bama led ninth-ranked Michigan State 42-0 after three quarters and cruised to a 49-7 win. And while a national title may not be at stake this year, a loss to Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines certainly wouldn’t sit well in Tuscaloosa.

After all, there’s a huge fan base to please and a certain legacy to uphold. There are also younger players with a chance to audition for bigger roles and upperclassmen who are wrapping up amazing college careers.

“You know, I talked to the players about we want you to have a good time, we want you to enjoy yourselves,” Saban said. “But we also want you to play well in the game.”

With a trip to Universal Studios, a shopping spree at Best Buy and a Day for Kids charitable event at Fun Spot America on the itinerary, among other events, this trip is the perfect time for the players to kick back and enjoy themselves a bit. And the coaching staff wants them to do so.

Just not so much that they won’t be able to get it together come game time.

Finding a balance between having a good time and being focused on the game and playing well will be key for this team; it’s not a pressure cooker but it’s certainly not a vacation. And if there’s any coach that can allow his players to go off to theme parks one day and then come back the next completely dialed into winning the game, it’s Saban.

He knows there is plenty on the line — for his team and the team on the other sideline.

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