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The Jumbo Package | 10.26.11

(Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images)
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Football Holds First Practice of the Bye Week -

"The goal of what we were trying to do today and do tomorrow is improving our deficiencies as a team," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "We make a quality control list of everything that we want to try to work on at every position and also with individual players and things they need to improve on. Today's practice was quite a bit of kicking game and some special situations, but more like a Monday practice for us. Tomorrow we will work on fundamentals."

Keys to the Game: LSU at Alabama (Nov. 5) -

LSU WILL WIN IF: they win the battle of the big play. On a down-to-down, play-by-play basis, we'd give the slimmest of edges to the Tide--the Tigers have been just a shade more yielding on defense (4.0 yards allowed per-play to the Tide's FBS-leading 3.2) and just a shade less consistent on offense (5.6 yards per-play to Alabama's 6.8), though how much of that is the Tide's better play and how much is the Tigers' tougher schedule is open to debate.

Tide's Dont'a Hightower having superb season |

"I was kind of forced to step up and be the leader of the defense last year, and the knee injury really frustrated me a lot," Hightower said. "I was not comfortable with the leadership role, and I was not used to it, trying to replace Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas and Terrence Cody and guys like that. "I was ready for this year and comfortable with stepping up and being the team leader. I feel like we're all going in the right direction right now."

Tide returns to practice | Dothan Eagle

"Getting our players not to think about everything that’s surrounding the game. That’ll be the hardest part," Saban said during his press conference Tuesday after practice. "… Not to get affected by the circumstances surrounding the game is probably the key to being able to play a really good game. But you need to focus on what you need to do to play good football." Senior receiver Darius Hanks said he’d like to approach this as just another SEC game. "If we think the game is too big, I think it’ll hurt us," Hanks said, adding that he’s "definitely looking forward to it." - Notebook: McCullough ever-valuable

Just how valuable is Alfred McCullough to the University of Alabama's offensive line? As the Crimson Tide line navigates the return of an interior starter (Anthony Steen) and the loss of freshman left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, the answer to that question becomes more obvious: very valuable. McCullough is capable of playing both guard positions and both tackle positions, providing much-needed versatility. "When you have guys like that, especially in the offensive line, it makes it so much easier to be able to get your best guys out there," said UA coach Nick Saban. "... But now, Alfred really is helpful because he can play so many places."

Quick hits: Alabama coach Nick Saban bye week press conference |

On having a week off, is it better or worse for the team going into a big game?: You jus have to have trust and faith in what you do. Saban said he really likes the routine. He said he felt like they were in a good routine, but because Alabama is banged up physically it will help to have time off from a physical standpoint. Saban said he hopes his players take a "business-like approach."

Suspended LSU football stars Mathieu, Ware and Simon return to practice |

Les Miles says star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, leading rusher Spencer Ware and defensive back Tharold Simon have returned to practice. The three were suspended for unbeaten LSU's 45-10 victory over Auburn for violating the team's drug policy, but Miles says they practiced on Tuesday and are expected to play for the No. 1 Tigers' when they visit second-ranked Alabama on Nov. 5.

The Undefeateds: Who Will Follow Wisconsin And Oklahoma Into The Loss Column (And When)? -

With Oklahoma's loss, it seems to be a general consensus that Alabama and LSU are the two best remaining undefeated teams in the country. And whoever wins Saturday night will have a mostly unimpeded path to the national title game. If Alabama wins, they have about a 90-percent chance of running the table; if LSU wins, they have about a 78-percent chance. Alabama does still have to win two road games versus opponents who have at least occasionally been salty this year (Mississippi State, Auburn), and an Auburn team not much worse than this one almost took out 'Bama's national title winner in 2009. Still, even factoring in an SEC title game battle versus either Georgia or South Carolina, it appears 'Bama's chances of winning each game following LSU are at least 90 percent.

Alabama notebook: Tide back at work | The Montgomery Advertiser

"Man, you hate it for the guy," Jones said. "That's your worst nightmare seeing that. ... It's no one's fault. He just got rolled up on. Sometimes that kind of thing happens. But I talked to Cyrus and he's in good spirits. He's going to work hard and come back and be fine."

Alabama football players, athletes greet young fans at Halloween event (photo gallery) |

Alabama football stars Trent Richardson and Dont'a Hightower utilized their time off during their bye week to meet and greet with some young fans and their families at the University of Alabama Athletics Department's 2011 Halloween Extravaganza Tuesday night. Sponsored by the UA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the event saw every Alabama sport represented by athletes who mingled with fans and costumed trick-or-treaters in search of candy and games to play in the Hank Crisp Indoor Football Practice Facility.