UPDATE FROM PASADENA: Tide preparing through month-long break

Jason Galloway

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. | They’ve practiced, traveled thousands of miles, answered questions, practiced some more, gone to Disneyland, listened to stand-up comedy and then practiced even more.

The only thing the Alabama football team has not done in the past month is play a football game.

“At this point, it’s almost like getting on a plane,” said head coach Nick Saban. “It takes a long time to board and check your bags and all that kind of stuff, but now we’re ready to take off, and you’ve got to go through your checklist and make sure you get it right and do it right, and get ready to go out and play your best game of the year.”

The BCS National Championship game against Texas is now just two days away, but it could not come soon enough for a Crimson Tide team long removed from celebrating an SEC Championship victory on Dec. 5.

“You almost just want to keep playing each week because that’s the routine that you’re used to,” said senior tight end Colin Peek. “It’s good to get your mind clear before the game and be able to take a step back and sort of reevaluate where you’ve come, what you’ve done and be able to jump back in, but at the same time, you gain throughout a year, that chemistry. I think it was evident in our last game, you could see we were clicking on all cylinders.”

Saban has seen a waiting period like this before, when he led the LSU Tigers to a national championship in 2003, an experience senior cornerback Javier Arenas said has allowed Saban to better prepare the Tide through this odd situation.

“You’ve got to learn how to manage it, and kind of relax,” Arenas said. “I’m ready to go right now. I’m buzzing. [I’ve been like that since] after the SEC Championship game. But, you’ve got to manage it.”

Starting quarterback Greg McElroy agreed that taking a month off in between games is not easy task from a mental standpoint.

“It’s not mentally draining,” he said. “I think, though, just the fact that we’ve waited so long and it’s finally here, and I think just the excitement and the things like that can take a toll on a person if you’re not mentally prepared for it.”

Peek said keeping a level head throughout the entire month is the key to being mentally ready when the game finally arrives.

“That’s probably the toughest thing that you have to deal with… maintaining that mental focus on the task at hand,” he said. “Because it’s so easy to forget what your goal is when you have a month because you really don’t realize it’s game time until like the day before. It almost creeps up on you.”

But remaining level headed has defined the Tide all season, and Alabama has no reason to break that trend now.

“I don’t think anyone realizes it’s a national championship game,” Peek said. “I think we’re just focused on winning a game.”

Notes: – Junior linebacker Rolando McClain did not participate in Tuesday’s media day because of an illness.