While the game Saturday between Alabama and LSU has been labeled "The Game of the Century," the Crimson Tide players are focused on tuning out the hype and facing this week’s opponent like they have every other team. "We’re going to do the same, prepare every week like it’s the national championship," senior tight end Brad Smelley said. "It’s just the next game is the most important game. We’ve tried to downplay the hype a little bit. It’s all about us and what we do. If we execute, we’ll have a good day on Saturday."
Alabama ranks first in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 1.67 yards per carry and 44.88 yards per game. "Yeah, we've got a great defense, and I'm pretty sure they're going to ... try to break their will [to fight]," Richardson said. "But at the same time we're trying to help our defense as an offensive unit and try to break their will as well as we can."
Both quarterbacks have been overshadowed by their battering-ram running games. Despite being overlooked, the quarterbacks provide a balanced offensive output. LSU is averaging 183.1 passing yards per game as opposed to 189 rushing yards, while Alabama is averaging 228.4 in the air and 229.2 on the ground. Pollack said the key will be getting them out of their comfort zones. "Neither team has had their power running game taken away from them where their quarterback had to go out and win a ballgame," Pollack said. "If one of the defenses can put them in an uncomfortable spot and make them have to throw the football, I want to see how the quarterbacks react."
"I went home last weekend, and everybody said, 'Don't come back unless you come home with a win,'" safety Brandon Taylor said. "I think that the whole world is hyping this up a whole lot more than the players are. "To us, it's just another football game. But to the world, this is like," defensive end Sam Montgomery said, then paused and altered his voice to sound like a wrestling announcer and said: "THE DOMINANT SHOWDOWN BETWEEN NO. 1 AND NO. 2!"
McCarron likely will face more pressure than he's ever seen Saturday, both in terms of situations and heat from the LSU front four. That doesn't mean he won't know how to handle it. "At Alabama, to win a job as the pressure is ratcheted up ... I'll bet it wasn't a pleasant time to be in the running for that job for a year and half," Danielson said. "All of that was in preparation for maybe one four-minute drive in this game."
Crimson Tide center William Vlachos said he hasn't seen anything different about Richardson with something to prove. "Every time in practice he gets the ball, it's like his last time he's going to get it," Vlachos said. "That's the way he practices and I think that's what separates him from a lot of other talented backs. A lot of backs have the same ingredients -- vision, strength, power, instincts, all that type of stuff. And he's got that certainly, but the way he works day in and day out I think is what separates him."
Who is playing the part Jordan Jefferson this week on Alabama's scout team? It's Duron Carter, who did not qualify to play this season as a junior college transfer. Jefferson is a 6-foot-5, 224-pound senior quarterback who is regarded as more of a threat as a runner than passer. Carter is a 6-4, 210-pound wide receiver. Does Carter have a future at quarterback? "I'm not sure about that," Alabama defensive end Jesse Williams said. "He's just working on the scout team so far."
As for Richardson. ... "He's a team player," Vlachos said. "He brings the same amount of effort whether it's a passing down and he's got to go chop a defensive end, or if they're saying, 'Hey, it's third-and-1 on the goal line and you've got to get the touchdown for us.' "Whatever he's got to do for our team, he does it. He's not worried about attention and that type stuff. He's worried about this team and doing what he's got to do to help our offense."
"Their safeties have good awareness as far as if it's going to be a run or it's going to be a pass. And their defensive line is probably the quickest I've ever seen. ... These guys here are real shifty guys. They are very athletic. They try to push the blockers into the running back as much as they can."
Alabama coach Nick Saban will tell you there is no magic formula he casts over his running backs that prevents them from turning the ball over to the opposition. It's a by-product of focus, coaching and individual effort. "I just try to hit them before they even try to get to me, or try to come up and strip the ball," Richardson said. "It doesn't matter what size (they) are. I'm strong. I'm pretty sure they're strong. But I don't feel like any man on a team will outman me stripping the ball. "(Running backs coach Burton Burns is) real big on it. From a running back standpoint, you should be big on that yourself. Coach Burns is really big on it. Nowadays he doesn't have to remind us as much as he did last year, but that's one thing he does emphasize. "We had a couple of fumbles last year. We work on a drill every day at practice, and that's one thing we emphasize - holding the ball tight. If you can't hold the ball, you're going to end up on the bench. And that's something none of us want to do."
Mingo knew the magnitude of this game would be monumental, but he never expected something like this. He couldn’t even fathom having the money right now to buy such a ticket. But if he did, Mingo said he would buy a cheap truck, head to Best Buy and use the rest of the money to buy a TV to watch the game on. Even if he had the money to spare and he could take any woman in the world with him, Mingo said he wouldn’t do it. Recently divorced Kim Kardashian (after 72 days of true bliss) wouldn’t even stand of a chance of being his date for such an expensive event. "I wouldn’t even take her. I wouldn’t even go," he said. "Ten thousand dollars? Come on. Are you serious? "That’s SEC football for you."