NEW ORLEANS — Nick Saban did not give a number, but his answer was still telling.
"I don't know how many times," the Alabama coach said when he was asked how frequently he watched the game tape of Clemson and Alabama's national championship showdown from January. "I can't answer that. More than I'd like."
Linebacker Rashaan Evans offered a more specific ballpark.
"I've watched it probably 100 times," he said. "I even watched it a week after the game. I've watched this film so many times, man, it kind of gets repetitive, to be honest with you."
It has been almost a full year since Deshaun Watson threw a last-second touchdown to Hunter Renfrow as Clemson knocked off Alabama for the program's second national championship, and yet that one play is still on the mind. For every Alabama player who says he is over last year and is ready to move on Monday when No. 1 Clemson takes on No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, there is another that suggests it still haunts him. Now that the Crimson Tide has another chance to right the ship in the playoff semifinal and take the rubber match, watching that play has not only helped Alabama from a personnel standpoint, but also from a mental standpoint. Any time Evans can sense complacency creeping in, watching that footage nips it in the bud immediately.
Saban is 10-2 in revenge games.
"It’s something that you kind of want to remember," Evans said. "You want to be able to kind of feel what it felt like when you loss so that it reminds you in the game, if you ever get tired, if you ever get to a point where you feel like all is lost, it gives you a little bit more motivation."
Alabama is a team that runs the football twice as much as it passes, by Dabo Swinney's count. When it does come through the air, wide receiver Calvin Ridley is hauling in most of the receptions. He has 55. The No. 2 receiver in terms of number of receptions has 14. This week in New Orleans, Ridley suggested he wants to see more balance.
"It's pretty good," he said of his connection with quarterback Jalen Hurts. "I mean, I feel like we need to get other guys the ball, just it can be better, like, if everybody had the ball. The pass game would be more fluent, more efficient. Right now, it's pretty good."
No beignets yet
Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, the two Clemson defensive line pals who weigh more than 600 pounds together, have not yet stopped for beignets. They are waiting for the perfect time, perhaps after the Sugar Bowl if No. 1 Clemson wins.
"Well, you see, I'm trying to be a little disciplined, you know? So (I've been eating) most of the things they've given us — the team stuff," Lawrence said. "They gave us the barbecue and steak — the steak was good. Some steakhouse. That was delicious. But we haven't went too wild yet. I'm waiting a little bit (on the beignets). But I'm going to get them. My mouth's watering a little bit."
Tre Lamar, the Clemson linebacker, confirmed Saturday that he is 100 percent healthy. Lamar had been dealing with a stinger injury and sat out multiple games, most recently the ACC Championship.