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Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) runs toward Missouri safety Braylon Webb (9) during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Atlanta.

Cooper a Heisman finalist

Alabama junior receiver Amari Cooper was named Monday night as one of three Heisman Trophy finalists, joining Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Mariota is the heavy favorite to win college football's top individual award.

The 80th Heisman Trophy will be presented Saturday night in New York City, with ESPN televising the ceremony.

"This will be my first trip to New York City, and I can't put into words how much it means to me and my family," Cooper said in a release. "None of this would be possible without my coaches and teammates. The quarterback, offensive line, running backs and tight ends have done an unbelievable job all season, and our coaches always put us in a position to be successful."

Cooper is the fourth Crimson Tide player since 2009 to receive a Heisman invitation, joining running back Mark Ingram that year, running back Trent Richardson in 2011 and quarterback AJ McCarron last year. Ingram won the award, and McCarron finished runner-up.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder from Miami leads the nation with 1,656 yards on 115 receptions, the most single-season catches in SEC history.

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer will journey back to his days with the Florida Gators to prepare for the New Year's night semifinal matchup against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Florida and Alabama met in the 2008 and '09 Southeastern Conference title games and in Tuscaloosa in 2010, which was Meyer's last season in the SEC.

"We'll probably look at the last two," Meyer said. "Our offense has adapted and changed somewhat, but I always like to go back and see if there are some fundamentals or some coverage concepts you can look at. It will mostly be on that side of the ball that I'll check a little bit and see what they did."

Covering all angles is nothing new for coaches when preparing for bowl opponents, but this year is different for the four teams in the sport's inaugural playoff. The Alabama-Ohio State winner in New Orleans and the Oregon-Florida State winner in the Rose Bowl on New Year's afternoon must turn around and prepare for the national championship game on Jan. 12 in the Dallas suburb of Arlington.

Alabama coach Nick Saban had more than enough time to prepare for Bowl Championship Series title matchups against Texas, LSU and Notre Dame, and his Crimson Tide won those games by a combined score of 100-38.

"I don't really think that planning for the first game is going to be a lot different," Saban said on ESPN. "If we were playing in a New Year's Day bowl game, it would be very similar from a planning standpoint. The big change is going to be the turnaround and getting ready for the next game and being able to plan for that game.

"In the national championship games that we've played in, we've had over 30 days to prepare, and that's been very helpful to our staff."

Due to LSU winning the 2011 SEC championship, Alabama had a hefty 44-day layoff between its win over Auburn and defeating LSU in a rematch.

It is common practice throughout the course of a regular season for graduate assistant or student assistant coaches to start breaking down opponents a week ahead so a head coach and his staff can have video ready every Sunday. Preparing for multiple opponents is rare on the Bowl Subdivision level, but it does occur.

"Any time we have a next-game possibility, and it's an either-or team, we're always going to do the work," Saban told ESPN. "We were in a similar situation with Georgia and Missouri leading up to the SEC championship game. We did work on both teams, so that when we were ready to go that Sunday, we would have the information that we need.

"We will do the same thing in this game."

In other words, having too much to prepare for this time of year is now the goal of every FBS coach.

"I remember in the summer when I first started listening about the playoff, I started thinking that there were two games and how would you start working on the opponents, but I spent zero time on it," Meyer said. "We're a young program, and if you had told me this would happen back in August, I would have said 'not yet' and that maybe next year we would.

"Obviously these next 48 hours will be spent putting schedules together, but we also have to recruit this entire week. There is so much going on, and there is so much unknown about this process, but we've got to dive right into it."

Tide captains named

Senior quarterback Blake Sims, senior running back Jalston Fowler, junior receiver Amari Cooper and junior safety Landon Collins have been named permanent team captains for the 2014 Crimson Tide. Sims and Cooper were named offensive MVPs, while Collins and senior linebacker Trey DePriest were named defensive MVPs.

Cooper was voted by his teammates as Alabama's overall MVP.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.