Alabama Arrives in New Orleans for Sugar Bowl
The Alabama Crimson Tide has arrived.
The team landed at Louis Armstrong International Airport on Monday morning, about an hour before Kansas State’s plane was due to land.
The No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide will face off with the No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats in the Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT (noon ET) on ESPN.
The New Year’s Eve midday matchup will be the first between the Crimson Tide Tide and Wildcats.
The teams have a full slate of practices and activities, including their first practices in the host city on Tuesday.
Alabama will make its 17th appearance in the Sugar Bowl with this year’s selection, owning a record of 9-7 in those contests. Most recently, the Tide defeated Clemson in the 2017 College Football Playoff Semifinal game (24-6).
Head coach Nick Saban is 15-6 in postseason games at Alabama, earning wins over Cincinnati (2022 CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic), Ohio State (2021 CFP National Championship Game), Notre Dame (2021 CFP Semifinal Game at the Rose Bowl), Michigan (2019 Citrus Bowl), Oklahoma (2018 CFP Semifinal Game at the Orange Bowl), Georgia (2018 CFP National Championship Game), Clemson (2017 CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the 2016 CFP National Championship Game), Washington (2016 CFP Semifinal Game at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl), Michigan State (2015 CFP Semifinal Game at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic).
Prior to the CFP, the Tide defeated the Fighting Irish (2013 BCS National Championship Game at the Orange Bowl), LSU (2012 BCS National Championship Game at the Allstate Sugar Bowl), Michigan State (2011 Capital One Bowl), Texas (2010 BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl) and Colorado (2007 Independence Bowl).
Nick Saban Transcript – December 26, 2022
COACH SABAN: “I hope everyone’s enjoying a very special holiday season. And I hope you continue to enjoy the holidays. We’re certainly looking forward to the opportunity that we have here in New Orleans in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against a very good opponent, maybe one of the best matchups in any game this year outside the playoffs. So I have a lot of respect for our opponent.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the Sugar Bowl, the city of New Orleans, the hospitality that we’ve always received when we’ve been here, all the folks at the Sugar Bowl who worked so hard to make this event one of the most special bowl games that anybody could be involved in.
“So we’re excited about the opportunity. Players have had a really good attitude about how they’ve approached the game and the days we worked in Tuscaloosa. So hopefully we can get back to that later today and get ready to play a great football game.”
Q. Just want to ask about Bryce [Young] and, obviously, Will [Anderson]. We talked about it last week. What has the presence been ‑‑ we haven’t talked in a few days ‑‑ with them here, over the holidays and then coming into New Orleans and being part of the team?
COACH SABAN: “I think both guys have been tremendous leaders on our team. They’re both captains on our team. I think they feel sort of a responsibility to being a part of the team and have a tremendous amount of respect for their teammates, which I think probably weighed into their decision to play.
“I do think that both guys see the fact that you really create value for yourself when you play football. There’s a lot of guys out there that would say, “I’m not playing because I’m going to get ready for the draft.” Well, how do you get better ready for the draft by playing in a game against good competition?
“And I think both those guys certainly realized that. And we’ve done everything that we could do as an institution to minimize the risk for them to play.
“And I think it’s a great example for college football that guys that are special players who have had great seasons and have won numerous awards choose to continue to play and support their team.”
Q. You’ve been in this situation in the Sugar Bowl a couple of times in the past where you weren’t playing for the championship and you lost both times. What were lessons learned about how to approach a game like this in a program where you’re used to playing for a championship?
COACH SABAN: “Well, we’ve been in the playoffs, I think, since 2010. This may be the second time we haven’t been in the playoffs. I may be off a game or two by that.
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“It sort of becomes the standard that is the goal of everybody in the organization, everybody in the program to actually have an opportunity to play in the playoff and how do you sort of change that mindset to create value for yourself and your team and your teammates by getting motivated to play against what’s always been a really good team when you play in the Sugar Bowl and go out and play winning football.
“I like the attitude that this team has had up to this point. Hopefully, we can continue to build on that and have positive momentum going into the game and go out and play a good game and execute well. But I think everybody has to respect who you’re playing and what it’s going to take to be able to do that.”
Q. How can you tell your team is ready to play before the game, or is that something you won’t find out until the game actually starts?
COACH SABAN: “I think that sometimes you have a feeling by how the players prepare, what their focus is in meetings, and how in tune they are to sort of have an amount of intensity and energy in practice and how they prepare for the game, because if they’re doing the things the right way, that sort of shows you that they have the right mindset. So usually you have a pretty good feeling going into the game to play well.
“But games are a funny thing. All sports and all games have huge swings in momentum. I watched a couple NFL games the last couple days, and I saw huge swings in momentum where one team would be dominating and then something happens. Like, the Dolphins game yesterday was a great example. They could have gone up three scores. They fumble and turn it over right before the half. They were never the same team after that.
“So sometimes you’re ready to play a game and you go out and execute very well, but you got to be able to recapture the momentum in the game when things don’t go well. You got to be able to overcome adversity. So even though you may practice and prepare and start out really well, you’ve got to be able to maintain that intensity and that momentum for 60 minutes in the game. Regardless of what happens, whether other things go well or something bad happens, you got to be able to overcome it.
“I think that’s one of the great things about athletics. I think that’s one of the great things about football, is learning how to overcome adversity is probably one of the great lessons in life that will help you be more successful in life. Of course, things don’t always go exactly like we plan to. I think that’s one thing that you can learn from being involved in a team sport especially.”
Q. You were talking about the NFL games during the weekend. How was Christmas? Did Ms. Terry [Saban]get you anything fun? I know you’re prepping for a game, but did you get to enjoy it a little bit?
COACH SABAN: “Yeah, we enjoyed it. We enjoy being around our family. We’ve got a couple grandkids. Our entire family was there this year, which we have a tremendous amount of gratitude for. And it was a lot of fun. And when you have little ones, almost a 3‑year‑old grandson and a 9‑year‑old granddaughter, that always makes Christmas even more special. So we had a very enjoyable day, and very thankful for all the things that we are able to enjoy with our family.”
Q. Are you a good gift giver? Are you known as the guy who likes your gifts? Do you give the best gifts?
COACH SABAN: “The scouting report on me is — (laughter) — I’m really hard to buy for. I don’t know if that’s an excuse or if it’s a reality. So I either get a sweater, socks, or you can guess what else.”
Q. You’re a big believer in getting things fixed as the season goes along. Do you finally feel like in the Auburn game you did, or frustration? Things like penalties that bothered you all season, do you feel like you finally got that where you want it to be?
COACH SABAN: “We’ve worked really hard all year on things that you’re talking about, the team playing with more discipline, making better choices and decisions about executing because most of the time ‑‑ and when you analyze what happens good and what happens poorly in a game, it comes down to your ability to execute fundamentals, blocking, tackling, not making poor choices on decisions and getting penalties at critical times in the game. Whether it’s dropping a ball, missing a route, not playing the right coverage, missing a tackle, whatever it might be, it usually comes down to execution.”
“So that’s something that we’ve tried to continue to get our players to sort of have the proper respect for what you need to do to play winning football and how it creates value for yourself when you show that you can go out there and play with discipline and can execute and you don’t make the kind of mental errors that really cost your team. Because if you can do those things in a positive way, that creates value for you in the future as well.
“So we worked hard on that. I thought our team finished the season on a really positive note in the way they played the last couple, three games. So hopefully, we can continue to build on that in this game.”
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The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.