Teague had every intention of stripping the ball. "We were just taught as defensive backs that the ball is ours," he said. "I just wanted my football back. "I was trying to hit the ball down. I still don't know how it came up, but there it was in my face. I just grabbed it."
"This year, we take it among ourselves to lead this defense. Not just defense, the team – everybody," Johnson said. "We’ll put it on our back that if that’s what it takes. We’re going to do it. We’re going to get it done and everybody – from me, Dont’a, CJ – we’re working hard, pushing everybody. It’s fun."
A handful of current UA defensive players have an uncommon perspective on what it takes to win a national championship - they were part of one. Count linebackers Hightower, Johnson and Upshaw, each of whom contributed to varying degrees on the Crimson Tide's 2009 national title team, among those.
"We can be great. I honestly think we could be better than the '09 defense. We still got a lot of work to do, but I seriously think that," said Johnson. "We don't compare ourselves to them ... but as far as trying to do what that defense did, yeah, they won that championship that year. We're going to try to get there."
10. Who's going to play quarterback for Alabama? Nick Saban has been keeping an air-tight lid on the competition between redshirt sophomore AJ McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims. Saban hasn't released statistics from the Alabama scrimmages and has said, in a state where every nugget of information and speculation is pure gold, "this is not going to be a public debate."
And understand this about Auburn football: It, too, has a proud tradition, but not one as celebrated or as sanctified. It had won only one official national title before Chizik arrived. The Tigers' almost-but-not-quite moments included 2004, when they had the indignity of finishing 13-0 and No. 2 in the final rankings without ever getting a shot at a national title. Suffice it to say, as good as Auburn has been historically, it has remained the little brother to 'Bama football.
Saban admitted his lone regret was that he did not grant Muschamp authority over the defense while with the Dolphins. In 2005, Muschamp's title was Assistant Head Coach for Defense, but Saban called the plays. He brought in Dom Capers as defensive coordinator the following year, prompting Muschamp's exit. "Dom did a wonderful job, but Will probably deserved to get that job," Saban said in May. They seemed to mend any wounds two years later when Saban was at Alabama. After losing to Muschamp's Auburn team in the 2007 Iron Bowl, Saban sought him out on the field and hugged him, "which is unusual for Coach Saban," Larry noted. "They've been good friends ever since." Mike Muschamp, Will's oldest brother, added, "If you ask Will for the guys who had the most influence on him, I think Nick would be the first guy he'd talk about."
"I do like the attitude of the team," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I like the way the team has approached the season. Hopefully the team has learned from past experiences that none of these things really matter."
"I've been here a long time, and guys coming out of high school and learning our defense is pretty hard," Chapman said. "Jeff picked it up pretty fast. He learns fast.
While someone will get to back the car out of the driveway, Saban isn't necessarily letting him keep the keys. "Starting quarterback" can be defined narrowly as "first guy on the field," but for most football teams, it means more. It is a quarterback who knows that his position is assured and unassailable under all except the most drastic circumstances. By necessity, it relegates the other candidate into a role as well: 'backup quarterback." That's not the worst fate in the world - few players are as perennially popular at Alabama as the No. 2 quarterback - but it isn't where either McCarron or Sims want to end up. At this point, Saban isn't ready to relegate either into that limbo.
The Crimson Tide edge Oklahoma by a very slim margin, leading a top five that Oregon, Florida State, and Boise State round out. The Seminoles are No. 4 with two first place votes, a sign that voters may be looking for Jimbo Fisher's team to compete for a national championship this year.
"There are a lot of unknowns, more unknowns than you usually have in preparation for a game," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "Really, the key thing is to take care of business. Everybody take the approach to take care of business and challenge themselves to prepare well, play the best football, see where our team is and work to create an identity of who we want to be, what we want to be, what we want to accomplish and spend our time focused on those things."
Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower says he's got 7 percent body fat and is "back to where I was" pre-knee surgery. Says he's keeping up with RBs.
The Big 12 has spelled out in writing the exit fees and other steps Texas A&M will have to take to leave the conference. "While this is a complex and long-term decision, it is not our intent to prolong our conference exploration for an extended period of time."