FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Orange Bowl has been four weeks in the making. Travel is complete. Practices have concluded. Questions have been asked.
All that’s left now is the pregame rituals and the coin flip.
“Routine is very important,” coach Nick Saban said. “I’m not going to get into the depth of the routines that I have. Some of them are superstitious, whether it’s the socks you wear or the shoes you wear, the suits you wear the day of the game. I’m not getting into all that. What you carry in your pocket. I have a lot of those. But I think the routine that you create throughout the week is not really a superstition, but it’s something that allows you to be most efficient, and I think that’s really the key to the drill.”
Saban will take his pregame lap around the field at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday evening. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has his own routines as well.
“The bowl schedule makes that a little bit tougher on a day like today,” Riley said. “But yeah, I’ve got my little superstitions. I think it’s just more you kind of get into your mode during the week and you kind of — especially in this job now for me, what’s different, still running the offense, is trying to be as efficient as I can be with my time.”
Saban and Riley have their similarities, but are a study of differences in many ways. Saban, 67, is in the College Football Playoff for the fifth straight year and seeking his seventh national championship. Riley, 35, is after his first.
Alabama’s coach built his reputation on defense, while Riley has constructed some of college football’s most explosive offenses. They have the same task this week, though.
“We look at the opponent, break them down into different phases and what we need to do to be successful on offense, defense or special teams,” Riley said. “But then that’s where my job comes into play, where you have to look at all three of those together and how could — maybe how good Alabama is on offense affect what you do in other phases of the game or vice versa. So it’s like a puzzle. You’ve got to put it together.”
There were no last-minute updates on injured players from either coach on Friday morning. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa continued to participate in practice and is expected to play. Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown told reporters on Thursday that he expects to play as well.
Those are two of the many questions that have already been answered in advance of Saturday. The biggest question left is who will move on from the Orange Bowl.
“We sometimes use the analogy of every season is like climbing a mountain, and obviously when you get in a situation like we’re in now, both teams, it gets a little more treacherous at the top in terms of the consequences of mistakes and things that can happen,” Saban said. “But when next season starts, you kind of push the boulder up the hill or up the mountain this year, but next year it starts all over. So you have a process of things that are very challenging for that particular team, and that’s what I always sort of look at and focus on. Just don’t look back, always look ahead.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.