"That's always funny to me, because fans always say, 'They keep running the ball up the middle,'" he said. "And I want to tell them, 'Well, first of all, there's about 20 different plays that go up the middle. It's not just the same play.’ They don't call, ‘Hey guys, up the middle on one.' "It may not be exciting, but it's worked well for us. I think really good teams in Alabama history could run the ball pretty well between the tackles."
All three of Bell's touchdowns this season -- and all five during his Alabama career, for that matter -- have gone for 39 yards or more. His 85-yard catch-and-run against Florida Atlantic is tied for the fourth-longest touchdown reception in Crimson Tide history. "It just all comes down to my speed," Bell said Tuesday. "I’m blessed to be one of the fastest receivers we have. Whenever my number’s called for something to be deep or I have to use my speed, then I just use it. "AJ (McCarron) finds me, so we’re able to make explosive plays."
Alabama-LSU isn't a matchup of featherweights. It's Ali-Frazier, Tyson-Holyfield. It's heavyweights going right at one another, and it's arguably the best collection of maulers college football has to offer, with as many as 10 future NFL linemen between the two schools. "Winning the line of scrimmage is probably the major factor in this game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. His undefeated Crimson Tide have won that battle every time this season. But the Tigers are unlike anything they've seen so far. The Tigers are a different kind of beast -- a bigger, meaner brand of opponent than the Mississippi States and Tennessees of the world. "It's whoever bends and folds first," UA linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "We've got to make sure we're on our stuff and be ready for our power football, and they've got to be ready for ours."
"It'll definitely be the most physical game we play all year, without a doubt," he said after practice Tuesday. "The most physical games I've played in my life have been against them. "We really respect the way they play football. They're not really going to try to trick us. They're going to line up and play their defense and we're going to line up and play our offense. That's why we like playing them and that's why they like playing us. We both respect each other and both really are kind of founded on toughness."
Alabama has not gone into a fourth quarter this season with a lead less than 13 points. That was against Ole Miss in a game that the Crimson Tide won 33-14. This could change Saturday night. "We try to pride ourselves in the fourth quarter and say that we're going to do the best we can and especially in the fourth quarter and try and give a little extra effort and dig deep inside of ourselves and kind of get a second effort," Sunseri said. "It's going to be a great game, especially in the fourth quarter. I feel like it's going to be a really, really intense game."
Devall made the most of his playing time with Alabama's first-team nickel defense Saturday against Mississippi State. He picked up his second career sack during the first half and added another tackle for loss in the fourth quarter. The Bastrop, La., native was one of two defensive players to be named an Alabama player of the week. "Now that he has a little more confidence, knowledge, experience -- whatever you want to call it -- in what to do, we can play him some in nickel situations," coach Nick Saban said Monday. "He does have some pass rush ability. He helped us in the last game and he was active in the last game. "We want to continue to use him in a role that he feels comfortable with."
"I'm sure they've developed a history of the things we like to do as well," Saban said. "You feel like you can do a little better job in preparation because you have that knowledge and experience going in to what you have to do." "Just about every time these guys have played us, they've done something a little bit different. You've also got to be able to be prepared to adjust in the game as well.
LSU fans create rock concert-level noise at their home games. For Alabama, it might be even more raucous than usual. "I don't know the crowd that well besides that they hate us, of course, and that they're going to be loud," Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood said. "I'm pretty sure they hate us because of what happened last year. I'm sure they have us circled on their calendar and have all kinds of pictures and stuff up. I'm pretty sure they have some motivation going." The most tangible advantage for LSU playing at home is the communication problems the crowd noise can create for opponents. "When you are playing on the road, it takes a special focus to be able to execute and do the things and stay tuned to what you have to do to be successful," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. Alabama players want to make it more about the game than the venue. "You can talk, you can say whatever you want. But at the end of the day you have to play on the field," Lacy said.
"Everybody has a place and a recipe and a formula for how they play their best," Saban said. "That is obviously the goal for every week. Now everyone would say that it is really critical that you play your best in a game like this. (But) the formula and the recipe for that doesn't really change. Even though you would like to change it and put some more sugar in the cake to make it taste better, that usually makes it taste worse." The fact, though, is that LSU is the team that needs more spice - or sugar, in Saban's analogy - to win. The Tigers cannot stick stubbornly to a plan that did not yield a touchdown in two games last season. Saban doesn't want to be predictable, either - but that doesn't mean he will abandon business as usual. "We have to stay with the formula for what helps our players be able to take care of business. You can't go overboard to where the anxiety creates a negative that affects their performance in an adverse way. "It's a balance."
"I just heard coach Cochran tell us that when we finished working out," running back Eddie Lacy said. "He (Cochran) didn’t say nothing about it. He just wanted to make sure we knew." Lacy shrugged off the comment. "No reaction, really. … You can talk and say whatever you want, but at the end of the day you have to play on the field," Lacy said. Wide receiver Kevin Norwood called Miles’ quote "just crazy." "I mean, I don’t understand Les Miles," Norwood said. "At the same time, Death Valley is a tough place to play – especially when they got their crowd behind them, especially when they’ve got a good defense. So we’re just going to have to bring our ‘A’ game and focus on what we gotta do."
"My aunt's more of an LSU fan now, but my uncle's a die-hard Roll Tider," said Mettenberger. "They've got a Mark Ingram national championship helmet, a bunch of Nick Saban autographed stuff. It's tough going to their house and seeing all that, but they've been Alabama fans their whole lives." This week, the Quinlivans will be in Baton Rouge to watch their nephew lead LSU against their beloved Crimson Tide. And Mark Quinlivan's loyalties will be divided. "He wants me to throw for 500 yards," Mettenberger said of his uncle, "but lose 38-37."
6. (tie) T.J. Yeldon, Alabama, RB: Bama lost the great Trent Richardson, but Yeldon showed from opening night -- when he ran all over Michigan -- that the Tide is still going to have a fierce, deep backfield. He's also been at his best against the Tide's toughest opponents, averaging more than 10 yards per carry against Michigan; 8.6 ypc against Tennessee and 8.4 ypc last weekend against Mississippi State.
6. (tie) Amari Cooper, Alabama, WR: Nick Saban's program had to replace a few of its top WRs from last season's title team and has had some other receivers banged up. But the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Miami product has emerged as the team's top option outside. In the past five games, he has caught 27 passes for four TDs and almost 400 yards.
Alabama will have mostly the same players but a significantly different look this season. The Crimson Tide won't have four-year starter JaMychal Green patrolling the post or Tony Mitchell slashing through the lane for dunks. Instead, Alabama will rely on point guard Trevor Releford, four sophomores who showed promise last season and several inexperienced big men. "I think last year when we had someone like JaMychal down low, we focused a lot of our offense on him, which was understandable because he was such a dominant threat," guard Andrew Steele said. "I think when you look at our team this year, our biggest strength will be opening up the court a little bit more and I think we'll be a little more perimeter oriented. We still have confidence in our bigs, but our strength will be how we attack people off the dribble and space people."
As an offensive lineman, therefore, Jones goes against the sport’s most significant difference-makers on every snap — and he excels. With him on the line one Alabama running back (Mark Ingram) won the Heisman and another (Trent Richardson) was a finalist. This season the Tide’s quarterback (A.J. McCarron) has emerged as a candidate. Klein and Smith undeniably have put up big numbers but have done so in the Big 12, where it often seems defense is optional. Offensive linemen typically are ignored. It’s part of the deal. One look at Barrett Jones and all he has done, though, is all it takes. Give him the Heisman.
Today, having a good sports program has become beneficial in more than pure economic terms: It boosts a school’s reputation as well. For example, two economists from the University of Chicago and Brigham Young University showed that the year after winning a national championship in football, a school sees a 10 percent increase in applications. Of course, winning the national championship in football has nothing to do with how good a school is academically. But applicants are not the only ones confused. About five-sixths of FBS schools are public institutions, which means they rely on state governments to provide around one-quarter of their revenue, according to Duke economist Charles Clotfelter. Inexplicably, state governments give more money to schools with big-time, successful sports teams. The current system is set up to encourage schools to strive for athletic excellence, at the expense of other pursuits. This leads me to my second point: Is this what we want for our universities? Do we want to leave the market to dictate what universities should do? Absolutely not. Universities are for educating young people and for cultivating skills that will aid their students through the rest of their lives, both personally and professionally.