The University of Alabama Crimson football team arrived at Miami International Airport on Monday former to begin preparations for the Orange Bowl.
The No. 1 Crimson Tide will face No. 4 Oklahoma in Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal. Oklahoma arrived Sunday.
“It’s a little bit unusual for us to have to travel on Christmas Eve but we just moved up Christmas a little bit, watched the grandkids open presents and our players got to go home for a few days,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “We’re here now and ready to get re-focused on having the opportunity to play in the Playoff game against an outstanding Oklahoma team that presents a lot of challenges.”
Alabama has reached the playoffs for the fifth straight season since the format was created in 2014. The Crimson Tide has reached the title game three straight times, winning twice.
“We’re here now and ready to get re-focused on having the opportunity to play in the playoff game against an outstanding Oklahoma team that presents a lot of challenges,” Saban said. “The key to the drill now is to sort of get re-centered and re-focused and get everybody going. We’re looking forward to getting back to practicing today.”
The big storyline heading into game preparation this week is the health of Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who sustained a high ankle sprain in the Dec. 1 SEC Championship Game. He has been recovering from surgery and doing rehab work to get ready for the game with the Sooners.
“Throughout the process of us taking a break or having time off I’ve had someone there to just treat it,” Tagovailoa said. “Other than that I’ve just been resting it. And at this point we’re doing a lot better. It feels pretty good.”
The Crimson Tide sophomore and Heisman Trophy runner-up said he feels confident he’ll be ready for Saturday’s Orange Bowl.
“I think I was only limited to the first couple of practices; maybe the first two or three practices that we had. Other than that I was a full go with everything,” Tagovailoa said. “You know, I trust and believe in what (Alabama trainer) Jeff Allen and his training staff can do. They say it’s been done before, so I think it’s a mindset thing. You have to go in with the mindset that you want to get better right away. And that’s how I took it.”
The other big storyline for the Orange Bowl is Tagovailoa’s counterpart, Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray. The Crimson Tide defense will be going up against the No. 1 scoring offense in the country.
“Their offense is explosive, they have a great leader,” Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said. “Kyler (Murray) is a very good quarterback. Stopping the offensive on all (levels) will be challenging. We’ll just have to watch more film on it, listen to what Coach Saban says, and just try to dominate.”