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Can Saban turn the tide in Alabama?

Times Staff Writer

They’re not quite sure how to feel right now in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the University of Alabama is coming off a 7-6 season and paying football Coach Nick Saban this season’s portion of his estimated $35-million contract.

But his popularity is bound to swing one way or another early, because the Crimson Tide opens against Clemson at the Georgia Dome. The Tigers, 9-4 last year, are loaded and considered the team to beat in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Alabama-Clemson series started in 1900, when the legendary John Heisman was the Clemson coach. Heisman was an advocate of the forward pass, pushed for football to be divided into quarters, and created the center snap.

As for Saban, at this stage, it’s still about the money. The Alabama movers and shakers thought enough of him to pry him away from the Miami Dolphins of the NFL, where Saban left $13.5 million on the table.

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Saban won a national championship at Louisiana State and knows all about expectations.

He just didn’t like talking about them at SEC media day.

“You guys use that word ‘expectations’ a lot,” he told reporters, “and I try to minimize it a lot because I think it’s dangerous.”

What to maximize: Tackling, blocking, running, passing, catching.

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Open and shut

You can’t argue with this reasoning: Even if Rafael Nadal crashes at the U.S. Open, winning the French Open and Wimbledon isn’t such a poor consolation prize, so there’s no pressure on him at Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

“Why more, no? If I lose in the U.S. Open, well, my season is going to be a very good season, no? But pressure, not. Less . . . I think.”

Bowled over

There was a perfect 300 score at a bowling alley in Tustin, but it wasn’t the usual way. All the pins in all 30 lanes at Strike Orange County were toppled at the same time Tuesday when the 5.4-magnitude earthquake hit.

After a brief evacuation, bowlers picked up where they left off, but with a few added bonus points.

Hate meter

Attention Carson Palmer. You are not alone.

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According to ESPN.com, the nation’s most-hated college football team is Ohio State.

USC holds down the No. 2 position and Notre Dame is third.

And finally

Len Elmore, in SportsBusiness Journal, said high school senior Brandon Jennings chose poorly when he decided to play pro basketball in Europe instead of going to college: “He is simply another impressionable young man, susceptible to the hawkers and hangers-on who tell him what he wants to hear instead of what he needs to hear.”

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thomas.bonk@latimes.com


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