TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Routine-oriented and strictly organized, the Alabama football program isn’t used to playing a game on a Friday.
So the decision to move the Iron Bowl up a day wasn’t exactly greeted with open arms in Tuscaloosa especially since Auburn had that late bye week to prepare. The unfamiliar circumstances just meant recalibrating the calendar.
The days of the week did some shifting so Friday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff in Auburn would feel like a Saturday afternoon.
“You just have to front-end load it,” said Saban, who expressed frustration last week over the CBS decision to move game day to Friday. You have to get stuff done earlier in the week and try to leave the back-end the same so the players can recover and have the same routine at the end of the week.”
If there is a theme around the second-ranked Crimson Tide program this week, it’s all about efficiency.
Like it or not, no time is wasted when cramming six days into five. Even Saban’s weekly news conference seemed to move at a faster pace than normal as the urgency of the situation came through.
“You have to take it with great importance because every little rep you have is important and is going to be vital to the success you have in the game,” Saban said.
Tide offensive lineman Mike Johnson said the expedited process got some help from Chattanooga. Since the 45-0 Saturday win was secured early and most starters never saw the field after halftime, the recovery time was significantly cut down.
A traditionally low-key Monday practice is built around recuperating from the previous Saturday. But with the low-stress, low-impact win, Monday seamlessly became Tuesday.
Quarterback Greg McElroy isn’t worried about the jam-packed week ahead.
“I know I’ve already had film up yesterday and this morning on Auburn. It’s just how you manage your time,” he said. “It’s slightly different by I don’t think it should affect anything very much.”
Throw the Thanksgiving holiday in the middle, and things get even more interesting.
Saban said Monday that he’d allow players living within a two-hour radius of Tuscaloosa to return home and eat dinner with family on Wednesday after practice. Everyone else will celebrate a traditional although unconventional Thanksgiving dinner with teammates and coaches that same night.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said his players would have a team brunch on Thanksgiving Day, do a walk-through, and then eat dinner together. Alabama also has a walk-through scheduled for Thursday along with travel to Montgomery.
Coaching early on Thanksgiving weekend is hardly new for Saban. All five seasons he spent at LSU meant playing Arkansas on the Friday after the holiday and his second season with the Miami Dolphins brought a Thanksgiving Day win over the Detroit Lions.
“I know it’s an issue for my wife sometimes that we don’t have our traditions of Christmas and Thanksgiving and all that when we play these games and have practice and those types of things and have a radio show on Wednesday night when we’re supposed to have Thanksgiving dinner,” Saban said. “It affects her. But it can’t affect me and it can’t affect the players. Hopefully, they can stay focused on what they need to be thinking about.”