The schedule says that Alabama’s season opens on Saturday against Louisville in Orlando. But in another sense, the season is here. The Crimson Tide turned the page to game preparation late last week. This week, the team enters its standard game week schedule that it will use throughout the fall.

“I’ve been pretty pleased with the progress,” coach Nick Saban said on Thursday. “I think we learned a lot from the last scrimmage. The guys have had a pretty good attitude about doing the things they need to do to try and improve. We do have more players that are maybe getting closer to being able to contribute in some area of the team, which will be certainly needed. We need more guys that can play winning football.”

Alabama has managed to play winning football for its last 16 season openers, dating back to a loss to open the 2001 season. That includes eight wins in neutral site openers against competition from major conferences during the Nick Saban era.

Saturday’s game will conclude a month of preseason practice and start the three-month regular season for the Crimson Tide. Saban delivered a message to the team as it started down that road on Thursday.

“The message is, ‘How are you going to respond to a team that has bad intentions for what they want to do against you and what you want to accomplish yourself,’” Saban said. “This team has to be focused on the identity that they want to be able to create for themselves in terms of how they play, how they go out and execute. I think the whole idea is to be able to go play smart. More games are lost on mental errors and stupid mistakes probably than anything, especially in openers. And that’s certainly something that we’re going to work hard to try to eliminate.”

Reach Ben Jones at or 205-722-0196.