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Nick Saban to the 2009 Crimson Tide: "Let's Get Back to Work"

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IAugust 29, 2009

Spring practice opened some Alabama fans' doubting eyes that this could be a great team.

The influx of rookies working so well in summer drills made some reconsider that the loss of Andre Smith and John Parker Wilson would be devastating.

Now with drills, fundamentals, and conditioning behind them, Nick Saban sent a blunt message to the team: "It's time to get back to work."

With the summer sessions behind them, now comes work on not preparing bodies for a grueling season, but of preparing minds for the necessary work playing a top 10 team in the season opener.

Now they watch film of Virginia Tech, come up with plays that may exploit a percieved weakeness, as well practice and prepare for what we think they will throw at us. .

The season now takes on a familiar feel of preparing for this week's opponent.

"Last year, none of the players knew they were entering a season where they would go 12-0." Said Saban. "They didn't look past anyone and took one game at a time in a very business-like and determined manner.

"I don't want them caught up in long-term goals right now, I want them to take each game one at a time, just like last year."

And therein lies the trick.  Last year they started the season not knowing how good they really were, it was easy to keep them focused on the next opponent for much of the season.

It wasn't until the dismantling of Georgia in the now famous 'Black out game' that the team knew they were something special.  That team started with a low preseason ranking and perhaps lower expectations from many.

This year's team starts as a top five team with talk of another SEC Championship game even before they've taken the first snap of the first game.

"It's much easier to get a team up and play their hardest when they're underdogs." Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart told me this spring, "Staying on top is always harder than getting there."

Truer words were never spoken.  Look at how few back-to-back National Champions there have been in college football. The room is narrow on top of the mountain.

It does help that Alabama has simply not been handed the SEC West trophy before the season began. Many have picked the Ole Miss Rebels, and many think this is the year for LSU to rebound.

They have plenty of reason to still have doubts and many more reasons not to overlook anyone on their schedule.

Besides the opening game against a top ten team, Va. Tech, they face an up-and-coming Arkansas team with a dangerous quarterback in game four, then go on the road to a solid Kentucky team that gave them fits last year.

For those who don't remember, Kentucky not only went to a bowl last year, but beat a very good East Carolina team.

Then right in the middle of the season, in game six is the showdown on the road with Ole Miss that many feel could determine the winner of the SEC West.

They can hardly take a breath after that game, not with another bowl team staring them in the face in the next game.  South Carolina is looking to move up in the SEC and would like nothing better than to have a statement game against Alabama.

Then there's the Tennessee game. Lane Kiffin doesn't understand nor care about the tradition of this game; his concern is only what statement it will make to future recruits or the enhancement of Tennessee's desire to once again be an SEC "Big Boy."

You can bet he'll throw everything and the kitchen sink at Alabama to win this game.

With a week off to catch their breath, they then face LSU in what now have become the biggest rivalry game on the schedule. 

With Auburn seemingly down for the count for at least this and next season, LSU looks to be the rivalry game for the foreseeable future.

LSU played Alabama oh so tough last year until finally losing in overtime. With both teams returning most of the same players, can the outcome be that much different?

Indeed Nick Saban has much to point out to keep his players minds focused on one game at a time.

In many ways, the worst thing that could happen for both Alabama and Virginia Tech would be an Alabama blowout.

It could crush Virginia Tech's hopes and cause a downward spiral for the rest of the season, and at Alabama, it could get them cocky and turn their eyes away from the hard regular season, and start looking toward the end.

For Nick Saban, job one is keeping that that team focused on one game at a time.

He's so right: it's time to get back to business.

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