TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Last week, Alabama football coach Nick Saban was clearly not impressed with the level of effort in practice.
Following the Crimson Tide's 44-13 thumping of No. 14 Miami, Saban did not like the energy of his team. It even caused the coach to reference the term 'rat poison' last Wednesday to lead off his weekly press conference.
In short, Saban believed that his team was listening to outside noise too much and was growing too confident in its abilities. While Alabama was able to walk out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a 48-14 win over Mercer, a much more difficult challenge in a road test at Florida looms on the horizon.
On Wednesday night, Saban revealed that this week's practice has gone much more to his liking.
“Well we’ve had a lot better energy, a lot better focus, really practiced a lot better," Saban said. "So I’m not disappointed in the way that we’re preparing for this game.”
Florida is set to be one of Alabama's toughest challenges in the regular season. Not only is the program's offense and defense set with SEC talent at every position, but the game also represents the Crimson Tide's first true road trip of the season: a long drive to Gainesville to play inside one of the harshest environments the conference has to offer.
Saban has seen top matchups like this Saturday's against Florida come and go time and time again. While they present a challenge for his team — a program that has a lot of new starters on offense compared to last year — he believes that true competitors look forward to tough matchups.
“I think games like this are certainly something — if you’re a great competitor — you certainly look forward to," Saban said. "I think we all commit to things in our life. When you commit to things, you have a sense of purpose. And when you have a sense of purpose, you’re willing to make the choices and decisions to create the right habits so that you can be the best version of yourself when you get in a competitive situation."
The trip to The Swamp marks the Crimson Tide's first visit to Gainesville since October of 2011. Alabama was won seven-straight games against Florida dating back to the 2009 SEC Championship Game.
Last year's SEC Championship was once again between the Crimson Tide and the Gators, with Alabama pulling off a 52-46 win. It's those kind of tests that Saban looks forward to and hopes that his team of competitors does the same.
"In these kinds of challenges and these kinds of games, as competitors that’s when you find out what your commitment has been and what are the habits that you’ve created and what do you have to continue to do to try to be the kind of player you want to be, be the kind of team you want to be," Saban said. "So we’ll certainly find that out because we’re gonna play a really good team in the SEC in a tough place to play.
"We’re certainly looking forward to the challenge because it will kinda tell us a little bit about who we are, where we are, where we gotta go, what we need to do to get there.”