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Though Saban Preaches "Finish", Alabama's Start Is So Important

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IJuly 25, 2009

Only two of the last six BCS Championship games were won by teams with perfect records.  Of those who did lose, nobody lost their first game.

The first game can either sound a good or bad note for a team that can help carry it or curse it for the rest of the year.

Nick Saban is on record as saying he likes tough openers and last season's opener against what was was supposed to be the top ACC team and this year's repeat of that same scenario has Nick Saban's fingerprints all over it.

In fact, he wants more.

So why would Nick Saban want to risk an opening day disaster?

There are always the politically correct answers, like getting fan interest and exposure for the team, but this is Alabama.  Nobody has to try very hard to get interest and exposure.

Saban believes in off season conditioning and hitting the ground running.

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Nick believes in the old mantra that you win games in September by weight training and conditioning in February at 8:00 am in the morning.

Last year's opening game against a supposed Juggernaut offense and a stifling defense was little more than a pushover.

Alabama's offensive and defensive linemen simply pushed Clemson out of their way and into total disarray.  It was obvious that, even if the opposing players were close in size and weight, the Alabama player was in better condition.

Though Clemson wound up losing not only their chance at an ACC Championship but their coach as well, most pundits think Virginia Tech will not only still be in the ACC race in December, but perhaps the national one as well.

Should the Tide be victorious over Tech, then the tone would be set for high expectations for the rest of the season with talk of the ending of the season and not what must be done to fix the problems.

And what would a Bama loss mean in that opening game?  Would it be a rallying point like Tim Tebow and Florida had after losing to Ole Miss last year?

Or could it cause a downward spiral as in the case of the Clemson Tigers?

And though Nick Saban's always been about finishing, and even Rolando McClain said, "Last year we won 12 games, but we didn't finish how we wanted, we were disappointed, but this year will be different. Coach Saban is preaching to us, 'Finish, finish, finish.' And that's what we're working on doing."

But it's hard to have a great finish when you crash on takeoff.

There are many questions to answer at Alabama this year.  The offensive line, a new starting quarterback, and the loss of the heart of the Alabama defense, Rashad Johnson, are all reasons for Tide fans to have legitimate concerns.

So while the Tide players may be looking for a great finish of every game and the entire regular season, and hoping for that to be another SEC Championship appearance, most fan worries are about the start of the season.

But not Nick Saban, he's looking for more tough openers.

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