The lead

Alabama star receiver Amari Cooper didn’t take long to make a statement that quicky spread across the Internet on Saturday.

Moments after stepping off the plane, Cooper admitted he wasn’t a big fan of the city of New Orleans.

And, no, it wasn’t because of last season, when Bama suffered a 45-31 Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma in an un-Crimson Tide like effort in the Sugar Bowl.

“Too much going on,” Cooper said when asked why he doesn’t like New Orleans. “I don’t really like Bourbon Street. It doesn’t smell good.”

Cooper, a Heisman Trophy finalist and the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver, is hoping to make the most of the Tide’s return trip when they take on Oho State on Thursday in the Sugar Bowl.

“You can say that we learned from it,” Cooper said. “We’ve played many games after that so I kind of forgot about it.”

Cooper has caught 115 passes for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

Alabama safety Landon Collins, a New Orleans native, says last year has given the team some extra motivation.

“Last year pushed us all throughout the season,” Collins said. “We worked hard to get to where we got, and we don’t want to experience what we experienced last year. We want to have a purpose for why we are here.”

The stakes are higher this year, the first of the College Football Playoff. The winner gets to the National Championship Game on Jan. 12.

Alabama is going for its fourth national title in the past seven years.

Player to watch

Junior running back T.J. Yeldon, the only player in school history with 1,000-yard seasons as a freshman and sophomore, was limited in the Tide’s SEC Championship Game victory over Missouri with a hamstring injury.

“We are going to continue to work him, and hopefully he will continue to progress,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He’s had significant time off. He seems to be making progress now. We’re hopeful that he will be able to make a contribution in the game.”

Yeldon is 68 yards shy of rushing for 1,000 yards for a third straight season.

Quoteable

“Me, personally, I only speak for myself, no disrespect for the place, but I don’t really like New Orleans.” — Cooper

Did you know?

Alabama has had an appearance at No. 1 in the AP poll each of the past seven seasons. Bama now shares the record for consecutive seasons with at least one week at the top spot, Miami had a streak of seven straight seasons with at least one No. 1 ranking from 1986-1992.

Lagniappe

This will be Saban’s fifth trip to the Sugar Bowl as a head coach. Steve Spurrier has also coached in the game five times. The only coaches to have coached in the game more are Bear Bryant (8), Johny Vaught (8) and Bobby Bowden (6). Saban is 2-2 in Sugar Bowls. … This is Alabama’s 15th Sugar Bowl appearance, most of any school. The Tide’s eight victories are also the most of any school.