ORLANDO _ Although there's been talk about sending out the seniors on a winning note and getting many of the coaches a victory against their former employer, the University of Alabama football team has a new source of motivation for Saturday's Capital One Bowl against Michigan State.
"You're not really mentioned among the great Alabama teams unless you win 10 games so I think that's a definite point of focus for us," senior quarterback Greg McElroy said. "We've put a lot of purpose into winning our tenth game.
"It really comes down to us, whether we want to win or not."
A win would give Alabama its 31st 10-win season and third straight under Nick Saban. Although it's no longer quite the same achievement thanks to the 12-game schedule and conference championships, many schools still consider it an important benchmark.
For years the Crimson Tide led the nation in 10-win seasons, with Paul W. "Bear" Bryant doing it 11 times, but Oklahoma has recently surpassed Alabama.
Most 10-win seasons (last year accomplished) 1. Oklahoma 32 (2010) 2. Alabama 30 (2009) 3. Nebraska 27 (2010) 4. Michigan 25 (2006) 5. Southern Cal 24 (2008) 6. Texas 23 (2009) 7. Penn State 21 (2009) 8. Ohio State 20 (2010) 9. Tennessee 19 (2007) 10. Florida State 18 (2003) (tie) Georgia 18 (2008)
The last time Alabama had three straight 10-win seasons was 1978-80.
Last year was the first time since 1973-74 that the Crimson Tide went 10-0 to start a season, when it eventually lost both bowl games (the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl, both to Notre Dame, 24-23 and 13-11, respectively).
The 2009 season also marked the first time Saban enjoyed back-to-back 10-win seasons. Overall, he's had four 10-win seasons and has already notched his eighth nine-win season at the collegiate level. He's the 11th Alabama coach to have a 10-win season and fifth to have more than one.
Regardless, players say practices in Orlando have been spirited.
"It's been real amped up since we got down here," junior running back Mark Ingram said. "Guys are hitting and running around fast."
"Everything's intense," sophomore guard Barrett Jones said. "Bowl practices are kind like a season of their own."