After eight straight games, No. 9 Alabama (7-1, 5-0 SEC) finally gets a week off from competition. The bye week is here, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Crimson Tide with a battle against No. 15 LSU (6-2, 4-1 SEC) on deck.

It may be a week of rest for the players, but head coach Nick Saban never wastes an opportunity to send a message to his players. Saban did just that during an appearance at the Monday Morning Quarterbacks Club. Although there is no opponent this week, Saban wants his players to keep the right mindset and try to improve fundamentally.

“Yeah, but I think you want to keep the right mindset during the bye week. Psychologically, you don’t have to focus on a particular game, but I do think you need to focus on what do we need to do to improve. This is not a time to get relief syndrome, like, ‘OK, I’m just going to go mess around.’ I’m going to try to get better at the things I need to get better at. I’m going to try to improve fundamentally the best I can.”

With a lighter workload this week, the players should be able to recover physically. Saban said this week’s workload is only 43% of a game week. The team will have an extra day off of practice and no game this week.

“And physically, we do an analysis of, OK, what do we do workload-wise this week compared to other weeks. It’s 43 percent. If you take from Sunday through Sunday, not playing a game next Saturday, not practicing today, only practicing three days, having five days off out of the next, whatever, eight, they do 43 percent of the workload. So that should help guys physically recover.”

Although the break will allow Alabama players to rejuvenate, Saban pointed out that the team tends to struggle more with mental fatigue during the season than the physical toll of playing eight straight weeks.

“There’s two things to this whole thing,” Saban said. “We do an analysis on all of our players. You get psychologically tired, and now you get into your feelings about how you feel. Or are you actually physically not able to do things at the same level you were doing in the summer in fall camp, earlier in the season?” 

“So they may think they’re tired, but it’s probably more psychological from game plans and the grind of the season than it is from anything physical.” 

Not only is the season a grind on the players psychologically, but it can also wear down the coaches. Saban and his staff can run tests to analyze the players, but do the coaches need a break, too?

“I don’t know. Is there an analytical way for anybody to know whether I need a break? I mean, we’ve got all these young bucks out there coaching. I know they don’t make them like they used to, but you ought to be worried about me, not them.”

“I’m pushing the coaches to keep on keeping on so that we can get better analyzing what their players need to at their position individually and collectively as a group and what we need to do as a team to try to improve as a team. It’s not nearly as taxing for the coaches in the bye week as it is during a regular week, so there is some psychological relief for everyone.”

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