If there was ever a game in which you could give the coach and players of the favorite the thumbs-up on dropping the usual "we respect everyone/we're not looking forward to next week/no, seriously, even though our opponent is starting a cardboard cutout of Jar Jar Binks stolen from a shuttered Blockbuster at outside linebacker, we could lose this game" front, you'd think it would be tonight's matchup between reigning national champions Alabama and FCS Georgia State , a program in its very first year of existence. After all, the Crimson Tide rescheduled the game from Saturday to Thursday specifically to get some extra preparation in before next week's day-after-Thanksgiving showdown with Auburn . It is, almost by definition, a game you look past.
But give Nick Saban credit: even this week, even against the Panthers, the traditional coach's poker face has stayed resolutely in place :
"We're not concerned about anything else," Saban said. "We're not concerned about anybody else but the team that we play this week."This is the first time in recorded human history that "went to overtime against Jacksonville State " has been cited as a reason for Alabama to be concerned with an opposing football team. That Saban can offer it up with a totally straight face is a poor-mouthing job of truly Lou Holtz -ian proportions, and he should be commended not only for that but for apparently convincing his team of the same:
Saban has sold the Alabama-Georgia State as a strong test.
"This team (Georgia State) played to overtime against Jacksonville State who beat Ole Miss," Saban said. "We respect the players that they have. We respect the good job of coaching that they do."
"We know that every game we play is important," Alabama defensive back Robert Lester said. "Every player in college is an athlete and can make plays. We can't look ahead to Auburn and look past Georgia State, because they could sneak up and beat us, which obviously wouldn't look good."No, no it wouldn't. But even though the spectrum of all potential possibilities is wide enough that Georgia State could win tonight, in the quantum sense of the word, it's not something Lester and his Tide teammates actually have to worry about. That he's bothering to express sentiments to the contrary should tell you: yes, even in what qualifies as a disappointing season in Tuscaloosa, this is every inch Nick Saban's team.