Pepperdine travels to Tuscaloosa with a 5-9 record and four losses in its last six outings after falling last Tuesday to Cal Poly, 70-64, despite Mychel Thompson's 24 points.
"Pepperdine is a team that is a very talented offensive squad," Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. "They bring a team in that we'll have to do a great job guarding defensively. Plus they've got a coach familiar with the SEC and Alabama. What jumps out at you is their offensive numbers but on defense they'll mix it up and play some zones and some man-to-man."
Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said there are no hard feelings toward his onetime recruit.
"As I said to all recruits, you have to make up your own mind, you have to live your own life," Dantonio said. "We do not pressure players to come to school here. I don't believe in that. When he made the decision to go to Alabama, we wished him the best. He's done an outstanding job. Very proud of what he's been able to accomplish.
"There's no hard feelings whatsoever. But we would have loved to have him here. If we get him, we probably don't have Edwin Baker and Larry Caper the next year. It goes back and forth."
Saban said the two spoke for 20 minutes after their teams arrived at the DisneyQuest entertainment facility at the Walt Disney World Resort. Dantonio served as an assistant under Saban at MSU in 1995-99, coaching the secondary. He remained at MSU for one more season under head coach Bobby Williams before moving to become Ohio State's defensive coordinator before the 2001 season.
"He's one of the best coaches we've ever had on our staff," Saban said. "It's no surprise that he's had as much success as he's had."
Lowery's playing career has almost matched his head coach's. Nick Saban was a determined part of Kent State's program who eventually became a starter.
"He doesn't remind me much of me," Saban cracked. "He's a lot better-looking than me."
But Saban soon turns off the jokes when it comes to Lowery, who is also a regular on Alabama's special teams. He's made 30 tackles this year.
"He is a guy that really has a great attitude," Saban said. "He's a hard worker. He's an overachiever. He's worked hard to get where he is in the program, and he's made a significant contribution."
"We stay in the film room a lot longer than we did last year," Young said. "We take pride in what we’ve done this year. It all started with spring ball and establishing the running game. All in all we’ve had a pretty solid year, and we’ve got to keep it going into the bowl game."
"(I could maybe) win the Heisman or go up in the (NFL) draft," Jones said of the incentives of a return. "Possibly win another national championship."
Lofty goals? Consider the voice of Alabama coach Nick Saban, which echoed Jones and offered even stronger incentives for a return to Tuscaloosa.
"I think he would be the No. 1 receiver in the country next year," Saban said. "He probably would be a guy, who would have a chance to make a lot of national honors in terms of whether it's winning an award like the Biletnikoff (Award) or maybe even being in the Heisman Trophy hunt."
"From what I've seen on film, he's a great wide receiver," Robinson said. "He makes plays, and his quarterback has a lot of faith in him. They just throw the ball up to him and say, 'Julio, go get it.' And he does it. All I can say is he's a great wide receiver."