When Missouri comes to Alabama this week, coach Nick Saban said the Tigers will be the best all-around team the Crimson Tide has faced this season, and they could easily be 5-0. He called Missouri an outstanding offensive team.
If that holds true on Saturday, Alabama may have to have key players, like QB Tua Tagovailoa, play in the fourth quarter for the first time.
“I think this is a really important game for our team to really focus and prepare for,” Saban said Wednesday on the SEC Media Teleconference.
Saban was asked how to prepare players for a close game in the fourth quarter, something they haven’t had this season.
“It’s impossible to create it if it hasn’t happened in the game … in practice we work on those situations but until you have to do it in the game, you don’t know how ready you will be for it and I’m sure it will happen at some point time some time,” he said.
The sophomore wide receivers have improved with more knowledge and experience, but the coaching staff knew they were good last year. Now they have more of an understanding of routes, and have more confidence and are playing faster because of it.
He said there’s no question the Alabama rush defense has slipped.
“I don’t think we have played well as a team,” he said. “With the linebackers, secondary support isn’t there. We give up a lot of yardage in the fourth quarter so that throws off the stats but we aren’t satisfied with where we are on that side of the ball yet … playing together as a unit will be beneficial to us.”
Playing at home helps, and it can affect the other team, but it does get overstated, Saban said.
“I tell our guys that it’s not the home field that matters, it’s about the players that are playing out on the field at home,” he said.
Craig Kuligowski, Alabama’s defensive line coach, previously coached at Missouri before a stint at Miami.
“He was smart, tough, great team guy and a leader and he has many of the same characteristics as a coach,” Saban said.
Saban also called Drew Lock one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
“He’s athletic enough to make plays with his feet and run it,” he said. “He’s a smart player, he runs their offense well and he does a good job of executing … I don’t know how many QBs are better than him in the country.”