Orange Bowl

What Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley had to say before Orange Bowl

Does Nick Saban have a sense of humor? Ask his quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, only if we have a big lead

Does Nick Saban have a sense of humor? Ask his quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, only if we have a big lead
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Does Nick Saban have a sense of humor? Ask his quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, only if we have a big lead

Alabama coach Nick Saban has had nearly a month to prepare for Oklahoma’s high-octane offense.

And on Friday, the day before the two teams play the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, Saban said he still isn’t sure if his coaching staff has dissected every play Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has put on display this season.

“We’re working on it, though,” Saban said with a smile.

But with almost four weeks to prepare for Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal, who knows what tricks Riley and his fourth-ranked Sooners might had devised in an attempt to pull off the upset against the top-ranked and heavily favored Crimson Tide?

Saban said he isn’t leaving anything up to chance.

“Any time a team has extra time to prepare, obviously it gives you a chance to do some things differently,” Saban said. “I think players’ ability to adapt and adjust in games as well as coaches’ ability to help them do that is probably critical when you play in games like this.”

Riley agreed.

“This game is probably more similar to the first game of the year than any from that regard, that of course you’re going to see some new things from both teams, but at the same time, when you’re in the playoff, these two teams are here for a reason,” Riley said. “So what you’ve done up to that point is probably pretty decent, too. I’m sure there will be some new things, but I doubt either one of us are going to get too far away from what’s helped us get to this point.”

Winning is winning

Oklahoma’s offense, ranked No. 1 in the country, has more than made up for its defense this season.

The Sooners enter Saturday’s semifinal tied for No. 108 nationally in yards allowed per game (441.8) and tied for 96th in points allowed per game (32.4). Both of those marks rank as the worst for a team to reach the CFP semifinals since moving to the format in 2014.

The other three teams in the playoffs this year, by comparison, rank in the top 20 in yards allowed and the top 10 in scoring defense.

But Riley doesn’t believe in the notion that his team is setting a standard in which a subpar defense can be overlooked as long as the offense can make up for it.

“We’re just here trying to win just like we’ve tried to win all the other ones,” Riley said. “Again, it sounds like a broken record, what’s your formula for winning. We’ve found ways to win games. We want to continue to get better on all three sides of the ball going into this game and into the future years of our program. There’s no doubt about that. But we found ways to win, and we’re going to try to do it again.”

This and that

As of Friday afternoon, Alabama remained a 14-point favorite over Oklahoma.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-70s at kickoff on Saturday with less than a 10 percent chance of rain.

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.

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