George Carlin’s seven forbidden words have company this week around the Alabama football complex.
Auburn and Florida.
The Crimson Tide’s next two opponents after Saturday’s visit from Football Championship Subdivision school Chattanooga were not to be addressed at Nick Saban’s weekly news conference Monday. His message was made clear less than a minute into his opening statement that didn’t include either dirty word.
“There won’t be one thing that anybody ever remembers about this season if we didn’t have success against a team like this,” Saban said, volume rising steadily.
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“You can ask me all you want about it, but that’s the answer to the question right there.”
He went on to use the word “respect” at least five times in the remaining 20 minutes of the news conference when addressing Chattanooga. Quarterback B.J. Coleman, who transferred in from Tennessee after competing for the starting job in the spring, is one of the major reasons Saban said his team can’t view Chattanooga as an oasis in the brutal SEC schedule.
At 6-4, the Mocs have improved considerably over the 1-11 season that brought about new coach Ross Huesman’s arrival. But they still play in what was once known as Division I-AA, so they questions about overlooking the heavy underdogs are natural.
When it comes to the first new forbidden word, Tide linebacker Rolando McClain said he wouldn’t take offense.
“If somebody said Auburn, I wouldn’t care,” he said. “This team has a lot of experience, so I think we will have pretty good focus.”
Playing the Mocs six days before traveling to Auburn for the Iron Bowl is just part of the deal, Saban said. Of the three non-FBS opponents Alabama played since 2000, none came to Tuscaloosa any later than Sept. 18. In that same span, two other non-conference opponents have come to Bryant-Denny Stadium in November without being a homecoming opponent with Louisiana-Monroe being the most recent to do so when it beat the Tide in 2007.
The quirk of the schedule does not bother Saban.
“I’m getting kind of used to this, you know, having a game like this late in the season,” he said. “It is a little different mind set for the players. Everybody has games like this, I just think it’s something you have to adapt to and adjust to.”
Linebacker Rolando McClain has made a habit of calling every upcoming Saturday’s game the most important of the season when addressing reporters on Mondays.
He stuck to his story this week while explaining why he isn’t worried about a letdown.
“This team has a lot of maturity,” he said. “We have a pretty good focus, so I’m sure everybody is focused on this game.”
Sports books, however, are not paying any attention to Saturday’s game. None of the major sports gambling Web sites have established betting lines for the 12:21 p.m. game that will be the first Alabama game not televised nationally since its Oct. 3 road win at Kentucky.
Either way, Saban wasn’t ready to criticize the scheduling process that included moving the Auburn game up a day from Saturday to Friday, Nov. 27. The Tigers will be coming off a bye week.
“Well, you know, it’s not really my call,” he said. “I didn’t change the game. Sometimes you just have to play the hand that’s dealt to you.
“I don’t know how these schedules get made, but a lot of people have bye weeks before they play us, I know that, and more next year. I really don’t know how all that happens, but it happens.”