"I think everybody needs to have a certain kind of psychological disposition to play any position," Saban said. "... I think one of the things that is most important at quarterback is that your ego doesn't get ahead of your decision making. ... AJ has done a really good job of managing that. ... AJ has gotten in a pretty good place psychologically for his position. I think it's important that he can stay there."
His poise, particularly away from Bryant-Denny Stadium, has drawn high praise from his teammates. "He’s had two tough road games and handled it very well," tight end Brad Smelley said. "He hasn’t really made a mistake. I can’t remember the last time we had a turnover. Our turnovers are really low and he’s done a good job protecting the ball." "He did a really good job of communicating, of making sure that we knew what the calls were, especially on some of those checks," left tackle Barrett Jones said. "It’s extremely difficult in a situation like that to get those checks across and make sure everybody knows them, but I think he did a really good job."
But Franklin made it clear that the Commodores aren’t backing down from such a tough opponent. This team has put its loss to South Carolina in the past and is confident heading into the weekend. "Our kids, like we said before the season, are really hungry and resilient and that’s what I’m looking forward to seeing is to see how we come out and compete this week in practice and also this Saturday," Franklin said.
"For them to have intercepted as many passes as they have and lead the nation in that regard, they have a bunch of guys that are instinctive and have good ball skills," Saban said. "The challenge is being able to read what they’re doing and not throw the ball to the wrong place, which they have capitalized on in each and every game."
"We have some challenges up front," Franklin said. "Now going back and watching South Carolina again, that's a very good defensive line. But we're going to face great defensive lines all year long. So I know coach (Herb) Hand and I know coach (John) Donovan and myself, we looked at some things we're going to try to do some things to help those guys out. We've just got to continue to get better."
"They’re a tougher team than people think," Saban said. "They’re 3-1, they have a good offense, and they have one of the best turnover margins in the country. One of the reasons they are having so much success is because they have such a good turnover margin, and their secondary makes a lot of plays for them."
Indeed, Upshaw said the team is preparing for Vanderbilt like any other team. He said they’re going to continue to prepare as they always have. He also said the fact that this is homecoming week for Alabama won’t factor in to the way they play. "To the fans, it’s homecoming," Upshaw said. "But to us, it’s just another game. We just want to go out and compete. Doesn’t matter who it was, so if it’s homecoming or just a regular game, we’re just ready to play."
Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked Wednesday how Josh Chapman happened to end up on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated and how is the senior nose guard coping. "I was wondering kind of how that happened myself," Saban said. "Let me just say this. He's probably happy that he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but he's also being harassed a little bit about (it), not just by the other players but also by certain coaches."
Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith, a Prattville, Ala., native, will get the only shot at his home-state school of his career Saturday when the Commodores visit the University of Alabama. And the former Mr. Football Award winner will come with perhaps the highest level of confidence he's had since he arrived at Vandy. "Obviously, Larry does a good job of directing their offense. They're sort of a no-huddle (offense), lot of checks, looking at the sidelines coming back. He gets them in the right play," said UA coach Nick Saban.
The University of Alabama ran for more yards against Florida Saturday than its defense has allowed through five games combined. And while the Crimson Tide's rushing total of 226 yards against the Gators was impressive enough, that it has allowed only 198 ground yards in the season to date is even more so. At an average of 39.6 rushing yards allowed per game, Alabama leads the NCAA in that category by a margin of nearly 20 yards over the nation's No.2-ranked rush defense, which belongs to Virginia Tech.
"He's in an ideal situation," said Franklin, whose Commodores (3-1) play at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. "He does a great job of managing the game. That's what they want from him at this point in his career. "Whenever you're a young quarterback still developing and you can play behind a veteran, physical offensive line and have two backs that are difference-makers and game-changers in this conference and be surrounded by wide receivers and all those things, he's doing his job.
It is hard to imagine Vanderbilt playing any worse offensively than it did against South Carolina last time out. The Commodores failed to score a single touchdown and finished with a mere 77 total yards, including four on the ground, embarrassing numbers to say the least. They turned the ball over three times and surrendered six sacks. "We got into a situation where we couldn't protect and we couldn't block in the running game," said Franklin. "It's hard to call a game if you can't protect and you can't run the ball."
"After the tornado, I read something that said, 'You can live in vision or you can live in circumstance,'" he said tonight. "I mean, not everybody chooses their circumstances, but you choose what you think and your vision. I had a bad circumstance that I had to overcome, but I had a vision: I wanted to be playing football. I want to thank everybody that helped me get where I am in reaching my vision."
Two sources familiar with the SEC's discussions about Missouri told The Birmingham News Wednesday that as of now it appears that a majority of SEC presidents and chancellors would support Missouri's application. But the sources said that majority falls just short of the nine votes required to add a new member. One source said there's a group of presidents that wants to sit tight, believing the SEC can do better than Missouri and that No. 14 should come from the East. According to both sources, Alabama wants to look East and not risk losing its annual game against Tennessee, while Auburn favors adding Missouri and moving to the Eastern Division.
Somewhere in all this, the bottom line will have to work out. That means a renegotiated broadcast contract with all those Texas and Missouri television sets (again, this is all hypothetical since Missouri is only idling in the driveway, not rushing down the highway at the moment) turning into millions of SEC-shared dollars. Will that offset the travel costs in every sport, or the culture shock of West Division teams seeing more of Missouri and Texas A&M and a lot less of Florida and Georgia? That's what the SEC is going to have to show me, as they say in Missouri, and show a lot of other people, too.
The source said that Tulane would become a viable option for the Big 12 if it were to grab four schools to beef up the membership to 12, in a situation where BYU decides it doesn't want to leave its football independence or its new tie to the WCC in all other sports. Tulane is interesting to the Big 12 because of its location in New Orleans and in a state, Louisiana, where the Big 12 is absent, as well as the school's renewed commitment to sports and facilities after Hurricane Katrina.