"According to you guys, we don't do much of anything. Which is fine," McElwain said. "We'll stand on what we do. We try to beat the defense. We'll try to do that with whatever tool we need." A reporter noted that Alabama was the only team this season in the Southeastern Conference that averaged at least 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. The Tide has averaged 219.8 yards rushing and 213.6 yards passing per game. "I'm glad somebody took note," McElwain said. "I'm proud of what we've done, but I know as an offensive coordinator, having a great defense is the best offense you can have.
Never do reporters get to see Alabama's first-team defense go against the Tide's first-team offense. What's that like? "Miserable. I'll tell you, Kirby does a great job," McElwain said, referring to defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. "They do a wonderful job on defense. "All I can tell you is this: They're pretty good, and so is this defense we're playing. I'm looking forward to not going against them in spring ball."
When Jones was being recruited by Saban, he knew he would win championships of his own. "When you're getting recruited you go around to a lot of different places and you hear every coach tell you that they're going to win a lot of games and you're going to be a big part of that, but when Coach (Nick) Saban tells it to you, you believe him," he said. Jones, the starting right guard on the 2009 national title team, has a chance to win his second and contend for another next year . "I just love being a part of Alabama I just wanted a few more chances to put on that crimson jersey," Jones said.
Alabama linebackers Jerrell Harris, Dont'a Hightower, Nico Johnson and Courtney Upshaw vs. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson when he's running the ball: Jefferson lost his starting job when he was suspended for the first four games of the season following an arrest. He split time with Jarrett Lee when he returned, but since Lee was pulled from the Alabama game, it's been all Jefferson. It's a stretch to call Jefferson a running quarterback, but he is mobile and LSU will use him on designed runs. He carried 11 times for 43 yards against Alabama. The Tide is No. 1 in the nation against the run at 74.9 yards per game, in large part because of those big, strong linebackers, led by the 260-pound Hightower, an All-American. It'll be up to them to keep Jefferson from hurting Alabama with his legs.
In the six occasions when Alabama got to or beyond LSU's 30-yard line, the Tide had five possessions that produced a net of minus-22 yards, which includes a pair of penalties. The remaining instance was Eric Reid's infamous interception of Marquis Maze with 11:07 remaining in regulation. "That was obviously a frustration for us," Tide offensive coordinator Greg McElwain said. "I think that has a lot to do with not only what we didn't do but obviously what they did. I can't say enough how much respect we have for them as a defense, and when you look at the lack of plays against them down in the red area from the accumulation of a full season, it kind of tells you how good that defense is."
"This is the most motivated game that we have in the season because a lot of people voted us out and didn’t want us in this ballgame,’’ said Richardson. "But Monday night we’re going to show them why we should have been in this ballgame. "I’m not saying we’re going to win or we’re going to lose, but it’s one of the things that we strive on and want to be remembered as the team that came down to history and had the most significant season and an outcome of the season that we’re going to be winners.’’
The lack of respect from Las Vegas can be a positive for the Tigers. They won't be overconfident despite the earlier victory. "I feel like we did pretty well and contained them pretty good, but I know it can be better," LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne said. "We gave up a couple of passes that when we went back and watched film that we shouldn't." But it's no surprise that the talk about Alabama has rubbed some LSU players the wrong way. "I don't know if you would call it a chip on our shoulder but we tired of people talking about how they lost the game for themselves," LSU defensive back Eric Reid said. "So I guess we have to prove that we can win it again and that's what we're trying to do."
In pro golf, they keep something called a "bounce-back" statistic. It quantifies how often a golfer follows a bogey with a birdie. If they had such a stat for college football coaches, Alabama’s Nick Saban probably would be your national bounce-back leader. Saban has a remarkable track record of following a loss to an opponent with a victory in the next meeting. He is 6-1 in "revenge" games with the Crimson Tide. Before that, he was 8-1 in revenge games at LSU. He has almost perfected the payback.
Round 1 between the Tigers and Crimson Tide was the definition of a defensive standoff. LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory turned into a field goal-kicking contest and left many fans outside SEC country less than thrilled about watching Round 2. But for LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, who spent 20 years as a defensive assistant at Tennessee before joining coach Les Miles in Baton Rouge in 2009, that first game was a thing of beauty. "When you got guys that are scoring every two minutes and the other team is scoring every two minutes, that’s certainly exciting football for the fans to watch, but jeez," he said Thursday. "I got enough gray hair. I don’t ever want to see any of that."
Center William Vlachos was quick to point out exactly what sort of challenge McCarron's first year has been, be it on the field or off it. "Playing quarterback at Alabama is extremely hard. The scrutiny and pressure and expectation you deal with on a day to day basis is something I couldn't imagine," Vlachos said. "It's something I have to deal with playing center, so I couldn't imagine have to deal with it on the level of playing quarterback."
"During the Florida game, when I was getting the crowd going ... coach told me to calm down," McCarron said. "After the LSU game, he told me to play with emotion again, that he missed that. I definitely gotta come out and play with emotion in this game like I always do, just play my game."
Alabama's Marquis Maze said Thursday he still believes the punt he mishandled against LSU in the regular-season meeting hit the wire of an overhead TV camera used by CBS. Regardless, Maze said he should have fielded the punt. "I'm not thinking about it now, but it's something that I focused on after the game,'' Maze said of the punt. "I'm sure it hit the wire, but I think I still should have fielded it. But my (injured) ankle was giving me a little bit (of trouble). It's just something I have to focus on and do better the second time around.'
"I think it's going to be the biggest weekend we've ever seen in the city," said Pam Randazza, owner of the Black and Gold Sports Shop in Metairie, La. "We've just been swamped." New Orleans has hosted three previous BCS title games, with LSU playing in two of them, 2004 and 2008. The Sugar Bowl and BCS combined in 2008 had a $400 million dollar economic impact for New Orleans, according to Kelly Schultz of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. But the real value is the publicity, having the city shown on national TV, the announcers discussing the food, the entertainment and other good qualities is a catalyst for future economic development, Schultz said. "I'll tell you what, there are a lot of happy Who Dats and Tigers in Louisiana right now," 47-year-old John Atkins said as he was watching both games at friends' houses. "I just hope both teams win, because if they don't this will be one depressed place next week."
The final player to commit was Landon Collins, the No. 1-ranked safety. Collins, from Geismar, La., announced he was picking Alabama over LSU. April Justin, his mother, said — on national television, mind you —that she thought he should be going to LSU. "It’s my life," Collins said. "I gotta be happy." "I can’t tell you what it is that she doesn’t like about Alabama, she used to be a 'Roll Tide, Roll’ fan all the way. I don’t know." While the fans and announcers were surprised by Justin’s public disapproval, Collins was not. "She’s going to speak what’s on her mind no matter what," he said. "That’s a mother for you."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Collins is the nation's top safety prospect and lives just down the road from Tiger Stadium, but he said he felt more at home with the Crimson Tide. "That's been the thing for me and what I have always said. I felt so much at home at Alabama," he said. "I have so much trust in those coaches and I get along so well with the players. That is why I ultimately picked Alabama." Collins said it was still a difficult decision, especially considering how close he is with the LSU staff and players in Baton Rouge. "It's been tough, and a lot of people have been on my back," Collins said. "People are always telling me about the schools and why I should go here and why I should go there. I just took into consideration what my family said, and we debated off of that. I did not listen to the outside people.