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University of Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has interviewed for the head coaching position at Auburn, but the Crimson Tide's sixth-year assistant coach may not be a primary candidate for the Tigers, sources close to the situation confirmed to The Tuscaloosa News Monday night. Smart, 36, has been among the most sought-after assistant coaches in the nation since last year, when he was tied to several job openings before ultimately remaining with the Crimson Tide and receiving a pay raise. UA coach Nick Saban has consistently endorsed Smart's readiness to take on a head coaching post, which he has yet to take on in his career. A University spokesperson said there would be no official comment from Saban.
"Coach Murphy is a deserving inductee into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame," Alabama athletic director Mal Moore said in a university statement. "Patrick has built one of the best softball programs in the country, virtually from the ground up. His commitment to his players has extended far beyond simply developing them as excellent softball players, but has helped them reach their goals academically and in other facets of their lives. I couldn't be more proud of the job that Patrick has done for Alabama over the years. He is truly worthy of this honor."
Apart from the play on the field, fans in the packed dome showed they were thrilled to pay for the privilege of being there—some of them several hundred dollars a ticket. The SEC has proved since it introduced the concept of a conference-title game that it owns the only one that matters. Nebraska, a program whose fans have been known to follow their team to the moon for a regular-season warm-up, returned thousands of the tickets it was allotted for Saturday's Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin in Indianapolis. Friday's Pac-12 championship at Stanford managed a mere 31,622 fans—less than half the Georgia Dome attendance Saturday and fewer fans, even, than watched Oregon State rout lower-division Nicholls State on Saturday. Keep in mind, the Pac-12 championship was being played on the campus of the eventual victor, not a neutral site, and had a BCS berth on the line. Tickets to Saturday's Atlantic Coast Championship between Florida State and Georgia Tech were going for as little as $2 on ticket-resale sites. Before the game, the NCAA had granted the Yellow Jackets a waiver so they would be bowl-eligible even if they lost and fell to 6-7, which is exactly what happened in a 21-15 FSU win. Tech only got to argue over the minutiae of the NCAA rule book and play the extra game because division mates Miami and North Carolina are ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
Every school was represented by at least one player on the first or second teams except Auburn, which endured a winless season in the SEC and finished 3-9 overall. Coach Gene Chizik was fired after a blowout loss to Alabama, losing his job just two years after guiding the Tigers to a national championship.
Alabama (12-1) will meet Notre Dame (12-0) on Jan. 7 in the BCS Championship Game in the Miami area. That’s five weeks away. How will the Tide handle the layoff? "You take it and use it to your advantage," Lester said. "You want to recover and get back to 100 percent and look back throughout the season and look at the things that you’ve done wrong that an opponent can possibly beat you with, and you want to fix those things so that it won’t happen again. Lester said a couple of Alabama players already are looking at film of the Fighting Irish. "We have a lot of time to prepare for them," he said. "We don’t want to overdo it and look at this game like it’s the biggest game that either one of us have ever played in our lifetime. I mean, just stay under control and look at it as the next important game and go and do what you do: play football."
"There are people in this world who do not follow college football, believe it or not," Gold said. "But those people have still heard of Alabama. They've still heard of Notre Dame. Kind of like the people who don't follow baseball. They've heard of the Yankees. Folks who don't follow the NFL -- they've heard of the Packers. In basketball, people who don't follow the NBA, you've heard of the Boston Celtics. "Well, this is that kind of a game. The cache of these two franchises is magnificent. "It's going to be a spectacular, spectacular night."
Lester said he's spoken with Dial since the Crimson Tide wrapped up its 32-28 victory, and that the defensive end has been getting "a lot of heat from outside sources" about the way Dial laid Murray out during a second quarter interception return. "I feel like it's all apart of football," Lester said Monday night at the 2012 Monday Morning Quarterback Club's award dinner. "Players take shots at us, we take shots at players. It's all football. It's a physical sport. "If you can go on the field and not get hit, more power to you. That's what football is about, hitting somebody, especially if you play defense."
Kelly said a big key against Alabama’s defense will be to avoid negative plays and turnovers, particularly for Notre Dame sophomore quarterback Everett Golson. "If you have negative plays and put yourself against the down-and-distance markers, you’re in for a long day," the Irish coach said. "It’s going to be important to eliminate negative plays and turnovers. I think when you do that, we’ll have opportunities. But that’s going to be one heck of a challenge for us."
The time away from the field will help some players. Kelly mentioned linebacker Manti Te'o specifically as someone who needs a little time to recover with all the attention he's been under as he begins traveling the nation for all the awards he's up for. He won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker on Monday and was named one of the Heisman Trophy finalists, too. "He's burned out. There's no question. He's on fumes," Kelly said. Irish players said they're trying to make the most of their time away from the field. "We're not taking this period off. We're not taking a break. We're going to get after it. We're going to let our bodies heal, give it the proper amount of time, but we're still going to be doing some stuff to make sure we're going to be on our A-game," safety Zeke Motta said. Running back Theo Riddick said the Irish are still working. "You basically have to watch more film, do all the little things that got you here. You can't really relax," he said.
``Essentially I said to them,'' Kelly mentioned, `` `What do you want to do? It's 12-0. Is this it? Are we going to just kind of flim-flam our way through the next two, three or four weeks? If that's the case, we'll have a nice break. We'll go bowling a lot, we'll do those nice trips down to South Beach. `Or do you want to finish this thing off?' ''