Tide faces Colorado in matchup with `intrigue'
By Ian Rapaport - Birmingham News
December 3, 2007

  Petro Sun Independence Bowl
TUSCALOOSA - Nick Saban returns to the state of Louisiana to coach a college game for the first time since he left LSU.

The PetroSun Independence Bowl chose Alabama (6-6) Sunday to play Colorado (6-6) on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. in Shreveport, La. The game, which will be televised by ESPN, marks the NCAA-record 55th bowl appearance for UA.

It also means that Saban, who won a national title with LSU, will return to the state he once ruled as the Tigers' coach from 2000 to 2004.

He shrugged off that storyline.

"It's not really about me," said Saban, who also coached the Miami Dolphins against the New Orleans Saints in Baton Rouge following Hurricane Katrina. "We come back to Louisiana quite often to visit friends. We are looking forward to coming to this game because it's a great experience for our team and our players. It's positive in every way."

With its 6-6 record, Alabama was not guaranteed a bowl bid. But the Independence Bowl committee chose the Crimson Tide over South Carolina (6-6) for the Southeastern Conference's final spot. Bowl Chairman Joe Darwin credited the Crimson Tide's tradition and proximity as reasons why.

"Obviously, there was a tradition with Alabama that was very appealing locally," Darwin said. "Then looking at Colorado, not only on the field, but from a standpoint of in the stands and on TV, we felt it was a matchup with some intrigue that we had to explore."

Alabama returns to Shreveport for the second consecutive season. After firing coach Mike Shula, the Tide and interim coach Joe Kines lost 34-31 to Oklahoma State in 2006. It was not a perfect experience, especially with a disgruntled fan base that bought only 9,000 tickets of the allotment of 12,000.

Darwin was clear that this is not last season.

"Completely different team, completely different regime," he said. "The fans are much more excited, while last year, the simmering discontent was evident."

Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore thanked the committee for, among other things, the confidence it displayed.

"Our players and staff had a great experience in Shreveport last season," Moore said in a statement, "and we are looking forward to a return trip."

In Colorado, Alabama finds a team that apparently went through a similar season.

"A little up and down," is how CU coach Dan Hawkins described it.

The Buffaloes of the Big 12 had wins over then-No. 3 Oklahoma and Texas Tech. They also had a loss to lowly Iowa State and a 45-point drubbing at the hands of Missouri. The season ended by scoring 65 points in a win over Nebraska.

The only common opponent - Florida State - defeated both Alabama and CU.

"We're fired up about coming (to the bowl game)," Hawkins said. "Obviously, we're playing one of the greatest programs in the history of college football with one of the best coaches in the country. It's a huge test."

Saban was in the Shreveport-based bowl game as a first-year coach at Michigan State and said he has great memories of that game, which was a loss to LSU. With the 2007 team finishing the regular season with four straight losses, he'll use the game as a final opportunity to end what has been a disappointing season on a positive note.

"We didn't do a great job of overcoming adversity, and it's a real challenge for us to be positive and upbeat about the opportunity that we have," Saban said. "To play a nationally recognized team like Colorado, it should be a game that has a lot of interest."