Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke to the media one day before the Crimson Tide is set to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic with a spot in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship on the line.

Read key points from Saban's press conference below.

Opening Statement: "Our players seem to be focused, practicing well, doing the things that they need to do to prepare to play a very, very good Cincinnati team who certainly competed well all season long and certainly deserves the right to be in the playoffs. And they're very well-coached. Their players play hard. They play well together. So this will be a very challenging game for us."

When asked about Cincinnati Coach Luke Fickell: "I'm extremely impressed. I've always had a lot of respect and admiration for Luke when he was a defensive coordinator. I think he's done a fantastic job of building a program. And I think the indication of that, not knowing sort of the internal parts of it, is when you look at what's happening on the field. The way their players play, the way they compete, the discipline that they have, you know it's a very structured organization that's creating a lot of value and teaching a lot of people what they need to do to be successful.

And that's something that we always have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for. They obviously have a lot of really good players, so they've done a good job of attracting good talent, which is always an important part of having a good team. But those good players are also being developed in a very positive way to help them be successful."

Thoughts on the O-Line: "I think it is a challenge for our offensive line. It was a challenge for them in the SEC championship game against a very good front seven. They'll have a very similar challenge in this game.

I know that I hear from a lot of the folks out there in the media that the way to have a chance to beat us is to pressure the quarterback. So in many cases, it's important that the offensive line can do a good job of protecting the quarterback and not allowing that to happen so he does have a chance to operate. We've been most successful when that's been the case. So this is a very challenging game for them."

How Important is Routine? "I think that's the most important thing, keep the main thing the main thing, which is the game and how you play in the game. And you determine that by the choices you make. What you choose to ignore, whether it's something you hear in the media, whether it's how you played in the last game, past performance, none of that really matters in this game.

It's how you look forward and focus on what you need to do to be able to execute, do your job, be accountable to your teammates in this particular game. So I think having the right mindset and the right focus is very important to being able to play well."

Injury Updates on JoJo Earle and Jalyn Armour-Davis: "Jalyn Armour-Davis has practiced some. We will make a game-time decision on whether he's able to play. And he'll certainly -- he's a mature player, and he knows whether he can go out there and do his job. And JoJo Earle has practiced as well. We will make game-time decisions on how much those guys are able to participate."

Thoughts on Cincinnati: "I think they have an outstanding team. Offensively, the quarterback (Desmond Ridder) has done an outstanding job all year. They have got good skill players outside. They have got great balance to run and pass. They've got a good runner.

Defensively, they're aggressive. They've got some good edge-pass rushers. They've got good cover people, especially the corners. They played really well defensively. And they are fourth in the country in points allowed.

And it carries all over into special teams. They're sound, solid, well-coached. This is a very good team and I think as good a team as we've played all year."

Thoughts on Slade Bolden: "Slade has had an outstanding year. He's a very consistent, dependable player in so many ways. He's an outstanding special teams player. He does a really good job for us in the passing game. He plays with toughness. He's a really good competitor. And he's made a lot of key catches for us throughout the season. And there's no reason to think that he won't have some opportunities to do the same thing in this game."

When asked about Jameson Williams and his transfer to Alabama: "Resiliency is really important to players having an opportunity to be successful. And I think when players stay in a program for three or four years and the opportunity that they wanted to create for themselves is not exactly what it turned out, that they wanted it to be, the opportunity to go someplace else can be very beneficial.

And I think Jamo did that. And what was unique about it is we played against them in the championship game and thought he was a really, really good player when he played against him a year ago.

And then to see him wanting to play maybe someplace else where he could be, I guess, in his terms, a more featured player was certainly a very good addition to our team."

On Quarterback Bryce Young: "I think he's got tremendous command of the offense, really understands the offense. Can really help implement things, whether it's protections, running plays, reading the defense, making fast, instinctive decisions as to where he throws the ball. And he throws it very accurately. And he's made steady progress in that throughout the year.

But I think when you're playing games like this, you just want him to play his game. You don't want to compete against yourself. You don't have to feel like you got recognized with accolades that you have something to prove. You don't.

You just have got to play your game. That's what got you here. That's what's got you the recognition.

And Bryce is really solid from a competitive, psychological standpoint in terms of his demeanor. And I think that really helps our team from a poise standpoint, especially offensively."

Was it difficult to find the right buttons to push with this team? "Well, I think it's always challenging when you come off of winning a championship for players to have the same hunger, to have a sense of urgency to prove something.

I think this is sort of a part of the human condition, that when you have success, you want to be rewarded, you want to relax. You can be a little complacent. So I don't think it was unusual from that standpoint. I think we anticipate that when we have a successful season and we're coming off a successful season.

But because we were young, I think it took this team a little longer to maybe respond on a consistent basis like we wanted them to, because that sense of purpose is what keeps people focused on the task at hand. And when you start thinking about a lot of external factors and letting other things sort of creep into it, you've heard me say before it's what you choose to ignore sometimes that's just as important to being successful as what you choose to buy into and commit to. And I think it just took a while for us to get everybody on the right track."

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Alabama fans who are just as impatient as Saban awaiting for Alabama to play football for the first time in nearly a month won't have to wait much longer. Kickoff versus the Bearcats is set for 2:30 Central time on New Year's Eve.

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