ORLANDO | The weather system that is causing hundreds of flight cancellations on the East coast may be north of the University of Alabama football team, but the Crimson Tide hasn’t exactly escaped to sunny skies, either.
UA opened its on-site preparations for the Capital Bowl against Michigan State at Dr. Phillips High School on Sunday with temperatures in the 40s and the players dressed for it.
UA practiced for two hours Sunday in helmets and shoulder pads at DPHS.
UA coach Nick Saban indicated that a couple of players had travel difficulty with the weather, but all were accounted for by Christmas night, when the team arrived in Orlando for a team dinner.
“I think everybody has gotten here that had issues with the weather,” Saban said. “I think all that got resolved and I think everybody got here. There were only two guys that didn’t (arrive Saturday for dinner) and I know one of them got here for sure and I’m assuming the other one was supposed to get here like at nine.”
The same storm system that held up a couple of UA players also prevented the North Carolina State marching band and cheerleaders, Orlando-bound for NCST’s Champs Sports Bowl game against West Virginia, from making it to Orlando in time for today’s Champs Sports Bowl pep rally. North Carolina State will play West Virginia on Tuesday night, which will be televised on ESPN.
Michigan State (11-1#, co-champions of the Big Ten Conference, also practiced in Orlando for the first time Sunday. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, who was an assistant coach on Saban’s Michigan State staff more than 10 years ago, noted the challenges his team will face on New Years Day.
“They’re an outstanding football team. Their quarterback #Greg McElroy) completes 70 percent of his passes, they have two great tailbacks, outstanding wide receiver group, big offensive line,” Dantonio said. “Really when you watch them on defense, very impressive — they’re coming off on like a sled…They make plays on special teams and they’re very well coached. It will be a great challenge for us.”
Saban said one of the challenges to beating Michigan State is that the Spartans don’t make crucial mistakes.
“I think one of the best things about Michigan State’s team is that they don’t beat themselves a lot,” Saban said. “They really play sound, fundamental, well-coached football and have really good schemes on both sides of the ball and their players do a really good job of executing.”
Taking time for kids
While Alabama is focused squarely on Michigan State in practice this week, it was a four-team effort Sunday morning when the Crimson Tide and Spartans joined players from North Carolina State and West Virginia in spending time with about 300 local children in need at Di