ATLANTA — Up one floor from the hospitality room in the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, where grits have been a part of a southern-style breakfast every morning, Washington head coach Chris Petersen sat alongside Alabama head coach Nick Saban for his final news conference before Saturday’s Peach Bowl.
Roughly 2,700 miles away from Seattle, there are times where it is obvious Petersen and the Huskies are a long way from home. Petersen expects that to be the case Saturday when No. 4 Washington takes on No. 1 Alabama in at 2 p.m. in the Georgia Dome.
“I’m sure tomorrow’s going to be probably a lot more red than purple in that stadium,” Petersen said. “You know, it is what it is. It’s not a home game for anybody, but it’s probably more of an away game for us. It’s going to be loud inside, and that will make it difficult to call some things.
“It’s not like we haven’t played on the road, we’ve played in front of a lot of crowds. We are way more worried about Alabama on the field than the crowd.”
Atlanta is just 200 miles away from Tuscaloosa, and the Crimson Tide is no stranger to playing in the Georgia Dome. Saturday’s game will be the second time this month the Tide will have played in the Georgia Dome after beating Florida in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 3. In fact, Alabama has won its last eight games in the Georgia Dome.
Despite the Tide’s familiarity with Atlanta, Saban said Saturday’s game won’t offer the same amount of comfort as games inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“I think that this is not a home game for us by any stretch of the imagination,” Saban said. “You’ve got your home stadium, you got your home crowd, your atmosphere. Especially in our conference, I think that’s something that’s significant for your team ... The fact that we played here before this season, I don’t think it’s going to have any impact in this particular game.”
Saban not ready to be commissioner yet
Saban cracked a couple of rare smiles during the news conference, even as he begins to lock in for the Tide’s final game preparations. One of those moments occurred when both coaches were asked whether or not college football needed a commissioner and who they would name as possible candidates to fill the job.
Petersen didn’t waste any time with his response.
“Yes, and I think Coach Saban would be a great one.” He said, eliciting plenty of laughter from the room.
Despite Petersen’s praise, Saban didn’t seem too ready to give up his role coaching the Tide.
“I don’t know about that,” Saban replied with a grin.
A known proponent of college football needing a commissioner, Saban did, however, remain in favor of the move. As far as who he’d recommend, Saban named Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez as a possible choice while stating there are several good options throughout college football.
“I think if we had some people, whether it's a committee of people or a commissioner, who could sort of drive the wheel a little bit in terms of what some of the problems facing our game are in the future,” Saban said. “Whether it's recruiting calendar, whether it's guys — number of guys that go out for the draft, whether it's the number of people that transfer, I think there's a lot of things that would be very, very helpful if we had some people in a leadership position that had some experience relative to what our issues are as coaches.”
With the big game fast approaching, both coaches were asked what their final message would be prior to heading out on the field Saturday. While only team members will hear the full pre-game speeches, both coaches gave a sneak peek at the talking agenda.
“I think that the message is you want the team to play best,” Saban said. “You know, can we play our best as a team. Can we play to our standard? What kind of mindset do we need to have to do that?
“We've had good preparation. We had lots of practice, more than we have for most teams. And, you know, you just want your team to go out there and play best. And we want them to focus on the things that they need to do to be able to do that against a very good opponent.”
Petersen says his message will be a quick one. The Huskies, a 14-point underdog, have heard all week how hard it’s going to be to beat the Tide. Petersen just wants to let his players do their talking on the field.
“I think at this point, there's not a ton of talking,” Petersen said. “We've talked to these guys for a long time and now it's just they know the plan and got to go play.”