TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Starting today, the final phase of the Alabama football season gets real.
When the chartered airplane leaves for southern California, reality will likely set in for the top-ranked Crimson Tide as it enters the final week before the biggest game of their lives.
After practice Wednesday, players were handed a bound and laminated itinerary for the next seven-plus days that will surely be a roller coaster ride before the Jan. 7 BCS National Championship Game with Texas.
Unlike most bowl trips, quarterback Greg McElroy said this one is much more focused on the game and not as much on the outside activities. One of the few leisurely excursions will take the Tide to Disneyland, but don’t expect to see the starting quarterback enjoying the park’s signature attractions.
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“Probably not the tea cups. I get dizzy and I’m scared of heights, so I’m up a creek without a paddle at Disneyland,” McElroy said. “But I’ll find a ride that suits me, maybe like ‘It’s a Small World’ or something like that.”
Although the full itinerary was not available to reporters, coach Nick Saban said it wouldn’t include many activities beyond the trip to Walt Disney’s original theme park. This trip is obviously different because of what’s on the line.
“It is a bowl trip, but it is a business trip,” Saban said. “Every bowl trip we’ve taken, we’ve tried to create a balance between the business side of it and playing well and actually the players getting some opportunity to get some reward for their accomplishments for the year, in terms of what they are allowed to do.”
Upon arrival, both Alabama and Texas will head to their new homes away from home and not exactly close to the Rose Bowl stadium. The Tide will be in Costa Mesa while the Longhorns are staying in Newport Beach — more than 50 miles of congested freeways away from Pasadena.
Neither team is scheduled to see the Rose Bowl until the day before the game for walk-throughs. Practice sites are located closer to the team hotels.
Alabama’s new training ground will be at Orange Coast College — home of the two-time junior college national champion. According to the school’s Web site, its football facility was renovated recently and FieldTurf was added to the football field. The Rose Bowl, however, has natural grass.
“We have to adjust to the facilities,” defensive end Brandon Deaderick said. “They don’t have as many fields and the locker room might not be as big. Practice-wise, we’ll go out there with the same mentality, the same scripts and everything so things shouldn’t change.”
When it comes to the downtime, Deaderick wasn’t too concerned about making plans, saying he’ll have “plenty of years” to have a good time after playing his final college football game Jan. 7.