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Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Big 3: Road test awaits for Alabama

By Alex Scarborough

Alabama coach Nick Saban took to the SEC's weekly teleconference on Wednesday morning to talk about how his team is handling the return from the bye week. He touched on preparing for Missouri, his ties to coach Gary Pinkel and the random nature of college football.

Gary Pinkel
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and Nick Saban have known each other since their playing days.
1. Challenging Tigers
Coming back from a bye week is never easy. For the players, it amounts to a short vacation. For coaches, that means reining the players back in and reminding them of the challenge ahead.

So far, Saban said he's been pleased with his team's focus heading into a road test against Missouri on Saturday.

"Missouri is certainly a very challenging team to prepare for," Saban said. "They do a great job defensively with the pressures, stunts. Offensively, they're one the most different teams we play against, in terms of their style of offense.

"This a very well coached team and this is going to be a challenging game for us on the road."

2. Ties with Gary Pinkel
The relationship between Saban and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has been well documented. Both played at Kent State together and both coached alongside one another as graduate assistants. In fact, it was Saban who recommended Pinkel for the head coach's position at Toledo, where he coached from 1991-2000.

"Gary was always a really smart guy, a great person, had great character, a really good competitor," Saban said. "When we both became GAs, it became evident to me that he could be a really good coach, so it's no surprise to me he's been an outstanding coach for a number of years."

Saban said he and Pinkel were fortunate to play and coach under Kent State's Don James. There are imprints of James' coaching style at both Alabama and Missouri.

"It certainly helped me in our systematic approach to how we do every part of our program," Saban said.

3. Unpredictability of college football
LSU lost in The Swamp. Georgia fell in startling fashion to the Gamecocks. Missouri let its first SEC victory slip away to a one-win Vanderbilt team.

For a team that Saban said doesn't remember losing to South Carolina, Auburn and LSU in 2010, weekly upsets around college football serve as a reminder that anything can happen.

"They don't play their best football, anybody is capable of beating you on any day," Saban said. "You control that. You control your accountability to doing things the right way."

Like any ranked team, the test is how you battle expectations.

"It's always a challenge for all of us to focus on the things they can control, which is basically what they do on the field," he said. "… It's sort of don't let the external factors effect who you are.

"It's human nature to be effected by that so you have to fight it a little."