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January 6, 2010

Notebook: McClain better, expected to play

NEWPORT BEACH _ According to University of Alabama coach Nick Saban, junior linebacker Rolando McClain was better Wednesday morning and will play in Thursday's BCS National Championship Game against Texas if he continues to improve as expected.

McClain and true freshman defensive back Rod Woodson were struck by a stomach bug Tuesday and missed the Media Day session with reporters. Both were slated to go through Wednesday's final walk-through at the Rose Bowl later Wednesday.

"We're not going to let him play unless the doctors say he can play," Sbaan said during his final press before the game. "If he's sick and he's dehydrated, he's not going to play in the game. I'm not going to put a player at risk regardless of what the circumstance relative to the game.

"He did not do much in practice yesterday, and I think he's better today, and he's practiced all year, and I don't think he's missed a practice in the three years that he's been here. But I think he's capable of recovering and being able to play in the game if he's medically cleared to play in the game."

McCarron's the backup
True freshman A.J. McCarron's redshirt status could be on the line Thursday, and he told reporters earlier this week that he would be more than happy to give it up if necessary.

"Well, we've had A.J. McCarron has really sort of been our backup quarterback since the bye week," Saban said. "It's been our plan that if we had to play him that we'll play the guy that gives us the best opportunity to win the game, and that's what we would do. Star Jackson is also an option for us, but we would make the decision on who would be the guy in the game that would give us the best opportunity to win. And if the person who has sort of been the backup quarterback needs to do that because he's performed the best, practiced the best and put himself in that position, I'm pretty certain that that's the direction that we would go in."

SEC dominance
If top-ranked Alabama beats Texas it'll be the Southeastern Conference's fourth straight national championship, and sixth since the Bowl Championship Series era began in 1998: Tennessee (1998), Louisiana State (2003, 2007) and Florida (2006, 2008).

"The SEC is the best conference," ESPN announcer Kirk Herbstreit said. "But I do sense just from a fan's perspective once you get outside of that region, it is the SEC versus the world. I mean, the world of college football feels that the SEC spends a lot of time almost with an inferiority complex. If you say something as a writer positive about a Pac-10 team, or if you happen to dare to say that, boy, the Big 10 did a nice job this year in the postseason, what do you mean? The SEC is quick to say, well, they're not as good as we are. So I do think that you get that from fans outside of the SEC."

"I've been in the SEC primarily for the last ten years, and quite frankly, this year, although I do think the conference is still extremely strong, outside of Florida and Alabama, the conference was a little bit down in my opinion, because the other teams were not as good as they have been in the last few years," fellow announcer Todd Blackledge said. "But those top two teams were so good that it carried the conference this year more than in other years.

"But I agree, I think that the thing that separates is I've watched the SEC over the last ten years. Everybody talks about speed. Well, there's speed all over the country. But where you really see it from top to bottom in that league that you don't see top to bottom in any other league is speed in the defensive line, particularly in the interior defensive line positions from top to bottom in that league is what separates the SEC from the rest of the conferences in college football."

Tide-bites
Mack Brown on what's his definition of Texas football: Very honestly, you want to be fast. You want to have fun. You want to be physical. I wasn't the smartest guy in the world, so one day I said it's full of F's, it's fast, have fun, be physical, and (the players) all laughed. Some of them didn't get it. That bothered me more."

Brown on what will determine Thursday's winner: "I talked to a friend of mine that's a professional golfer the other day, and he said you're going to have to hit most of the fairways and make some long putts to win this game, and I think that's true. And turnovers become huge in this game, and Alabama has done a great job of protecting the football. Both teams have done a good job of forcing turnovers. Explosive plays are going to be very important. They've got more in the running game, but they can do them in the passing game. Most of ours have come in the passing game. When there's as much man coverage and blitzing as there will be and disguising going on, there's going to have to be some big plays to win the game because I don't think either team will just run up and down the field. It hasn't happened to either defense all year."

Saban on what makes McClain so effective on the field: "Really you have two types of guys that sort of play that position, guys that are fast-flow slip blocks, I call it, type of guys who get to where they need to be, then you have guys that are big enough and powerful enough to actually use their hands, take on people, hold the point, shed the blocker and be able to make the play. And it probably is pretty unique to have guys who can do both, and that's what we look for in our inside backers, and we were fortunate to have two at the beginning of the year because Dont'a Hightower can do the same thing. But I think that's what makes Ro an outstanding player is he has the athleticism, the speed, the mobility and the power to do both."

Brown has no interest in the National Football League due to the lack of control compared to the college game. "I was told one time that don't ever coach a player that you can't buy a house in his neighborhood, and that makes sense, because if he makes that much more than you do … I've heard the Joe Namath stories where Dan Henning was coaching him and Dan jumped on
Joe, and the head coach said, okay, now, we've sold all these tickets, are they coming to see you or him. So I do understand it's different."

The SEC is 27-10 (.824) against non-conference opponents this season. Counting bowl games, the SEC has already equaled its best-ever win total in non-conference games of 47 also set in 2007 (40-8 regular season/7-2 bowl mark) and 2006 (41-7 regular season/6-3 bowl mark). Since conference expansion, the SEC's best non-conference winning percentage (counting bowl games) is 37-5 (.881), set in 1997 (32-4 regular season/5-1 bowl mark).

Brown's summation at his press conference: "Alabama has lost two games in two years. Texas has lost one game in two years. What you all are going to see is two very confident coaching staffs and two very confident teams play as hard as they can for three and a half hours to win a National Championship. And it is very unusual to have two undefeated teams in the National Championship. The BCS got lucky. Same thing in 2005. We sat here in 2005, and (Southern California) was an unbelievable team, and I can remember Texas was soft. I can remember NFL guys are soft. I can remember we don't have a chance, and our guys played great that night. I also remember standing out on the field before the game and looking down at SC and seeing the horse and the band and all the good stuff about SC that all of us grew up with, and I saw Pete (Carroll) and talked to him for a while, and I was standing there, and Greg Davis, the offensive coordinator came up, and I thought, 'My gosh, they've got a great-looking football team. Look at those guys.' He just patted me on the shoulder, and he said, 'Well, turn around. Yours look pretty good, too.' I thought that was pretty good. I'm not sure that we ever give ourselves enough credit. We've got a good team, too."


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