"His role was increased in the Auburn game because Mark was injured," Saban said. "He played some, but as soon as we saw Mark struggle early in the game -- he said he could play, so then he kind of took his place and Mark just played the dime. Since we lost Lowery, Vinnie has gotten an increased role in dime, depending on how we decide to play the guys in the game and how the matchups sort of work out for us. He's been a really good special teams player for us all year. Will Lowery was a great special teams player and had that role in dime and did a really good job all year long as well. Vinnie's kind of taken that role on now."
The most dynamic change for either team since the SEC titans played to a 9-6 overtime game on Nov. 5, by far, is LSU's quarterback switch from Lee to Jordan Jefferson. The pocket passer has been replaced by the pass-or-run threat that Jefferson used to close out LSU's season with its last four wins. The Alabama coaching staff, for its part, isn't making any assumptions that Lee won't see action. "We have a lot of respect for both of these guys and what they can do, and what they have done very successfully in their careers there as quarterbacks and most certainly the way they've both played this year," said UA coach Nick Saban. "We have to be ready for each scenario. They're a little different style, so there is some differences in the kind of things that they do. The players need to be aware of that. I think we have to be prepared for both in terms of what they both can do extremely well."
One-third of Alabama's true freshmen have played this season, meaning 14 are eligible for redshirts if they don't play Monday in the BCS Championship Game. Of the seven freshmen who played, four appeared in all 12 regular-season games: safeties Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri and linebacker Trey DePriest. Wide receiver Christion Jones played in 11 games, tackle Cyrus Kouandjio played in eighth before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and linebacker Xzavier Dickson and defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan each played in six games.
Still today, roughly two months since his last snap as a starting quarterback, LSU's Jarrett Lee still sits at the top of the Southeastern Conference ranking for pass efficiency. His efficiency rating is 152.0, and with help from a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 14-3, he still edges out the likes of Tyler Wilson, Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron - the best the league has to offer. And there he'll sit -- on the bench, that is -- when the BCS National Championship Game gets underway without him as the University of Alabama rematches the Tigers in New Orleans Jan. 9.
"It's a one-game season," Alabama defensive end Jesse Williams said during a recent appearance in the media room. He's looking forward to picking up where the two teams left off two months ago. "That's the sort of game we like to play: real physical and straight up," Williams said.
That's Saban, the coach who has reenergized the Alabama program, chasing Miles two seasons after winning the national championship. And for the first time since Miles arrived in Baton Rouge in 2005 to replace Saban (who had left for the Miami Dolphins), Miles has a chance to erase the memories of Saban's championship season on the Bayou. That, and the large shadow that has enveloped Miles' since Day 1. "Those comparisons will always be there; it's natural," LSU offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert says. "But this is his team. Always has been. We've always known what we've had here with Coach Miles. I think everyone else is finally starting to understand it."
The University of Alabama men's basketball team opens up the 2012 portion of its schedule at Georgia Tech on Tuesday. The contest, staged at Atlanta's Philips Arena, is scheduled for an 8 p.m. CST start on ESPNU and the radio affiliates of the Crimson Tide Sports Network. The game is UA's final non-conference game of the season before opening SEC play on Jan. 7 against Georgia and the team's second true road game of the season. "They're a very talented team when you look at the individual personnel," UA head coach Anthony Grant said of Georgia Tech. "They've got several guys in double figure scoring and a variety of guys capable of having huge scoring nights. Coming off two losses we expect them to be very excited playing at home and motivated to get a win. Our mindset has got to be come out and understand what we've got to do, both offensively and defensively, to put ourselves in the best position to win."
Alabama may actually have a better chance of winning this game than it did the first game, despite the first one being in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Nick Saban-coached teams, in general, tend to have great success with a month’s worth of preparation under their belts. It’s even more pronounced this time, thanks to the change at quarterback for LSU. In a strange year that began with two tragedies – the April tornadoes, followed by the death of Aaron Douglas – and continued through a season that generated more discussion and outrage over the BCS voting process than ever before, the fact it could end with one SEC team winning the conference championship and another winning the national championship just seems to fit. This should be a game for the ages – and look for the Tide to bring it home.
Wing, who is starting to gain one of those hybrid, part-Aussie part-American accents, summed it up like this: "My Dad (Dave) explained it as the AFL grand final and Melbourne Cup put together and that's the best I can do." To be playing in such a contest isn't bad for a kid cut by his local TAC Cup club, the Sandringham Dragons, destroying his dream of dominating a pack like his hero, Wayne Carey. But, from despair, a new dream has emerged that should take him all the way to the biggest American sporting stage, the NFL, where he hopes to transform the role of the punter. "It killed me, it was devastating (getting cut by the Dragons)," Wing says. "I couldn't see any positives but in retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened to me."