Saban: Alabama players must put aside 'clutter'

MIAMI (AP) — Two days after team leaders held a players-only meeting, Alabama coach Nick Saban says the Crimson Tide's performance in Monday's BCS championship against Notre Dame will show a lot about whether his players have put aside the "clutter" that comes with their success.

"You fight against human nature a little bit," Saban said Saturday at media day for the title game.

In the past, Saban has taken issue with the phrase "defending champions." He delivered a message of moving on to his players two days after winning last season's BCS title.

He said the gist was: "You guys are not the national champions."

"Other than making you a target," he said, "it doesn't do anything for you."

Alabama is still the target.

Tide players held the meeting because they wanted their teammates to get more focused in practice. Two freshmen linebackers — who aren't part of the playing rotation — were sent home Friday for curfew violations.

No. 2 Alabama is favored by more than a touchdown, which is OK with Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly.

"Somebody's got to be an underdog," Kelly said during his turn at the podium. "Alabama's got the belt; they deserve to have the belt, and we've got to try to take it from them."

The Tide is seeking its third national title in four years. No. 1 Notre Dame has its own impressive collection but none since 1988.

Kelly hopes to reach that same level Saban has achieved, ensuring that this isn't a one-time opportunity.

"Your program is defined in consistency, and Alabama is that model," he said. "I concede to that. It's where we want to be. We want to be back here next year.

"There's been some commentators that talk about, 'Is Notre Dame for real?' Well, for me, we're for real because we're here. We've won all our games."

Kelly said he gets the vibe that his team is ready for Monday night. He says he doesn't want the "outside, perceived pressure to weigh heavily" on players.

Alabama players have been here and done this, including the hype and sometimes off-the-wall questions of what amounts to a downsized version of the Super Bowl media day.

"I mean, I think it's the media that makes the game so much bigger," Tide quarterback AJ McCarron said "Me personally, I think it's just another game.

"Yeah, you're playing for a national championship, but it's another football game. You know, the field is still 53 yards wide, 100 yards long. Still got to put the ball in the end zone to win the game. I don't really pay too much attention to the title of the game, I guess."

In other words, the label "BCS championship" is just more clutter.

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