NEW YORK – Brian Kelly and Nick Saban expect many restless nights between now and the BCS championship game Jan. 7.
Kelly and top-ranked Notre Dame play Saban and No. 2 Alabama in Miami. The coaches appeared together at a news conference Wednesday at the Nasdaq stock exchange in Times Square.
“And in keeping with the venue where we are, you have two blue chip stocks that are going to go against each other,” Kelly said.
Asked what about their opponent will keep them up at night, Kelly and Saban both said there is plenty to worry about.
“Are you kidding me? Really?” Kelly said. “Everything about them.”
Saban’s response: “For me, I never sleep well, so Notre Dame is just the excuse now.”
The Fighting Irish will have 42 days between their last game against Southern California and the BCS title game against the Crimson Tide.
Alabama played in the Southeastern Conference title game Dec. 1, so its break is a week shorter.
This is the third BCS championship appearance in four years for the Tide – Alabama won its previous two – so Saban obviously hasn’t had a problem finding a routine that works.
“Many people have asked me how you carry the momentum of winning the SEC championship game into the next game,” Saban said. “And I think the answer to that is, you can’t. You almost have to look at any bowl game, or any layoff like you have for this length of time, as the next game is sort of a one-game season.”
Both teams will go into training-camp mode this week. The players will lift weights and do conditioning and fundamentals drills.
“Right now we’re doing two weeks of offseason conditioning programs, which is always fun. Always popular with the guys,” Alabama center Barrett Jones said Tuesday, with more than a hint of sarcasm in his delivery.
Kelly said the worst thing a coach can do about the unusually long time between games is worry about it.
“First, I think it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if you keep talking about the long layoff,” he said. “We don’t talk about that. We talk about what’s the next step here and the next stage, or it’s the national championship.”
“We think we’ve got a plan and we don’t concern ourselves with the length of that time.”
The plan is to keep the next few weeks as productive as possible.
“We try to work our way up to a routine,” Kelly said. “There’s that space there, weight training, conditioning, some fundamental work and then try to get back to that routine that they are all familiar with as we lead into the game.”
Aside from keeping the players occupied and in shape, Kelly and Saban also are facing the possibility that members of their staffs could land head coaching jobs over the next week or so.
Kelly’s defensive coordinator, Bob Diaco, was a candidate for the Boston College job that was filled Tuesday when the Eagles hired Steve Addazio away from Temple. Diaco recently won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.
There was speculation about Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart being a candidate for the Auburn job, but the Tigers hired Gus Malzahn.
As jobs are filled others open and there still are plenty of vacancies. There still is a possibility Notre Dame or Alabama – or both – could be dealing with this issue.
“I think those folks have every right to receive positive self-gratification professionally by taking advantage of some opportunity they have created for themselves by doing a good job,” Saban said, without talking about any specific assistant. “And I think it’s just a matter of professionalism where you can separate yourself for a day or two, not affect the performance of what you’re trying to do at your job, evaluate the circumstance.”
Last year, Alabama prepared for the national championship game with its offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain, interviewing and accepting the Colorado State coaching job.
Alabama won that BCS title game 21-0, and Saban said McElwain, “put a great plan together” for the Tide.
And if there is staff turnover during the layoff, and a coach needs to be replaced, Kelly said there are plans in place to deal with it.
“We can’t predict it, but we know that we are prepared regardless of the circumstances, and if we were to lose somebody, we’ve got great coaches on board that are ready to step up,” he said.