At the movies, Saban prefers drama to comedy

Alabama coach Nick Saban says he’s not much for comedies. He

prefers his movies to have a message, and part of his routine for

getting his players ready to play in a big game has been to have

them watch an inspirational film.

Saban thought long and hard Sunday during his last news

conference before the BCS championship game against No. 1 Notre

Dame, but couldn’t be sure what movie his LSU team watched before

it beat Oklahoma to win the 2003 title. Maybe it was ”The Last

Samurai,” he said.

The 2009 Alabama championship team that beat Texas in the Rose

Bowl watched ”Remember the Titans,” the Denzel Washington

football flick. Last year, before the Crimson Tide beat LSU in New

Orleans, Saban and his players watched ”Red Tails” about the

Tuskegee airmen.

”But I think the movie, regardless of whether it was `The Last

Samurai’ or whatever movie it was, really it was about the honor of

– the message was the honor of being all that you can be, that

maybe that might be more important than winning or losing, and that

your focus should be on that instead of the outcome,” he said.

Before Alabama played Notre Dame, the Crimson Tide were

scheduled to watch ”Zero Dark Thirty,” which chronicles the hunt

for Osama Bin Laden.

What, no ”Rudy”?

THE LINK: Frank Thomas had brushes with greatness at two of

college football’s powerhouses, and achieved plenty of it

himself.

Thomas was a quarterback for Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne and

started a 15-year run as Alabama’s coach in 1931, a year before a

big country boy named Paul ”Bear” Bryant came to play in

Tuscaloosa. Bryant eventually returned to Tuscaloosa for a 25-year

run as head coach, but didn’t forget his coach.

”Coach Bryant had a feel for Notre Dame and I think a level of

respect because of his coach, Frank Thomas, who he absolutely loved

and thought was a great, great coach and referred back to him so

many times,” said Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who played

and coached under Bryant.

Thomas, who died in 1954, won 81.2 percent of his games, four

Southeastern Conference titles and a couple of national

championships. His winning percentage isn’t all that far behind

Bryant’s (82.4 percent) or current coach Nick Saban (83.7, counting

wins later vacated).

Lou Somogyi, senior editor of 247Sports’ Notre Dame site,

compares him to Notre Dame’s Dan Devine, who replaced Ara

Parseghian and won the 1977 national title.

”When you think of Alabama, you think of Bear Bryant first but

Wallace Wade began it the way Knute Rockne did, then Gene Stallings

and now Nick Saban,” Somogyi said. ”Frank Thomas is sort of a

forgotten figure at times.”

As a player, too. Thomas was listed as a third-team quarterback

in 1920 as a roommate of George Gipp. He was a backup in 1921, and

Somogyi said Thomas was replaced as the starter midway through the

following season by Harry Stuhldreher, who became one of Notre

Dame’s famed ”Four Horsemen.”

SEVENTH HEAVEN: The Southeastern Conference has won the last six

BCS titles, and Alabama is looking to make it No. 7 on Monday

night.

Crimson Tide center Barrett Jones said it’s hardly automatic,

however, that an SEC team wins it all. That notion that SEC teams

are head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the nation is even

farfetched to him.

”There are some people that may be a little too-SEC-biased.

Don’t quote me on that, but you probably will,” Jones said.

”Certainly, don’t get me wrong, I think the SEC is probably by a

good margin the best conference. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t

other good teams out there.”

Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson doesn’t see any difference

between Notre Dame and the best teams from his conference.

”They could play in the SEC,” he said.

The SEC had another good postseason, going 5-3 in the bowls so

far. Though losses by Florida and LSU were unexpected and two Big

Ten-SEC matchups (South Carolina-Michigan and Georgia-Nebraska)

weren’t as decisive as many expected.

This is what passes as a disappointing bowl season for the

SEC.

FLYIN’ HAWAIIAN: Shane Victorino will be in Florida – well, the

other side of the state, anyway – in a few weeks to open spring

training with the Boston Red Sox.

First up for the so-called Flyin’ Hawaiian: A trip to the BCS

title game.

Not surprisingly, Victorino is a fan of Notre Dame linebacker

Manti Te’o, who also hails from the state. And Te’o was thrilled to

know that Victorino was coming down to lend Notre Dame his

support.

”Shane Victorino is just a real good guy,” Te’o said. ”We met

him before and had the opportunity just to hang out with him for a

couple days, and like I said, it’s that bond between Polynesian

players and even non-Polynesian players who know what Hawaii is all

about. … Just to have Shane here and have him experience this

moment with us, he’s family.”

BK LIKE NICK: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is happy to be

compared to Nick Saban. But, no, he hasn’t spent much time buddying

around with the Alabama coach.

”Well, Nick obviously has the reputation of being a great

program builder,” Kelly said Sunday. ”He’s defined himself, as

only a few coaches … have won the championships that he has. So I

take that as a great personal compliment, as it relates to

constructing football programs and putting winning football teams

on the field. I would take that moniker any time.”

Asked if he had ever crossed paths with Saban, maybe at public

appearances, during the time Kelly was at Division II Grand Valley

State in Michigan and Saban was head coach for Michigan State,

Kelly laughed.

”Public appearances for Nick?” he said.

”Nick Saban, I got a chance to know him when he was at Toledo,

a very short stint at Toledo, but I got a chance to know him

through a couple of camps that I worked at, and got to know him

better when he was at Michigan State. And I have a great deal of

respect for him and followed his career, his path, and certainly

when we see each other today, we’re reminded about where we

started. We both started in the Mid-American Conference, so a lot

of the times that we talk, we talk about the times back in Ohio and

Michigan.”

Saban started his coaching career at Kent State, his alma mater,

and Kelly’s first Division I job was at Central Michigan.

WEST COAST TOUCH: Pac-12 officials will handle the BCS

championship game.

Alabama was tied third in the country in fewest penalties per

game at 3.8 for 32.8 yards. Notre Dame was middle of the pack

nationally. The Irish were tied for 51st at 5.7 penalties per game

for 42.9 yards.

Pac-12 officials have a reputation for being aggressive with the

flags. Six of the 25 most penalized teams in major college football

are from the Pac-12, including UCLA which was last at 9.2 penalties

per game.

AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds, John Zenor and Ralph D. Russo

contributed to this report.