If there is lingering disappointment from Alabama's stunning loss to Auburn, the Crimson Tide players aren't showing it.
Alabama has conducted seven on-campus practices for its Sugar Bowl date with Oklahoma on Jan. 2. The Crimson Tide worked out for two hours in full pads Sunday and will practice again this morning before breaking this afternoon for Christmas.
"I think our whole team wants to finish strong, especially for our seniors," Alabama junior defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan told reporters late last week. "We know the pressure is on, and we don't want to go out there and get embarrassed or anything like that. We're trying to get back to Alabama football and dominate our opponent."
The No. 3 Crimson Tide (11-1), who will reconvene in New Orleans on Friday, are 15.5-point favorites over the No. 11 Sooners (10-2).
Since having an opportunity at a third straight national championship snapped by their state rival, Crimson Tide players have been fielding questions regarding Alabama's 2008 team that went to the Sugar Bowl and got thumped by Utah 31-17. That team was ranked No. 1 entering the Southeastern Conference championship game, where the Tide lost to Florida 31-20, and this year's team was ranked No. 1 all season until losing to the Tigers 34-28.
Alabama coach Nick Saban pointed out in his news conference Sunday that there will be 33 days between the Iron Bowl and the Sugar Bowl and that he has been pleased with what his team has accomplished since resuming practice last Tuesday. Saban said the first four practices focused on fundamentals and the past three on the Sooners.
"For the seniors, this gives them an opportunity to finish their career here the right way," Saban said. "And to everybody else who's coming back on the team, they have a chance to make an impression for themselves as well as the kind of football team we might have next year."
Sunday marked the first opportunity in which Saban could address last week's signing of East Mississippi Community College defensive lineman D.J. Pettway. A 6-foot-3, 250-pounder, Pettway tallied eight tackles, four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks for Alabama's 2012 national champions but was dismissed this past February along with three other players for robbing two university students.
Saban said it was a university decision to allow Pettway, who racked up 47 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss this fall at EMCC, to sign a second time with the school.
"We know D.J. Pettway very well," Saban said. "He certainly made a mistake in terms of what he did, but we felt this one person, because he did the things he was required to do, deserved a second chance. D.J. was never a bad guy when he was here, and we never had a lot of problems with him in the program before."
Saban said the three other dismissed players were not afforded the same opportunity.
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