This is a great team and a great program we are playing. I think the most important thing for us to do is focus on preparing to play our best football. It's always what's important when you play good teams. It's to do a good job in preparation and have a good understanding of what you want to do. 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. These guys have obviously been pretty successful at home. They've got the longest running streak in the country. Les Miles, to me, has done as good a job as anybody in our league ever has in terms of what he's been able to accomplish and the consistency they've accomplished as a team through the years in his eight years at LSU. This year's team has great running backs, and they are still able to run the ball very effectively. Winning on the line of scrimmage in this game, both sides of the ball, is one of the most important factors in the game. They are a ball hocking, big turnover type of defense that creates a lot of negative plays for you. They still have really good explosive players on offense to make big plays down the field, so if you are trying to load up to stop the run, you can create problems for yourself. This is a really good team. They've got good specialist, a good punter, good kickers and good return guys. They are ranked nationally in a lot of different categories because they are very well coached, and they've got really good players. They do a good job of executing their scheme on both sides of the ball. They're ranked where they're ranked because they are a really, really good team. This will be a very challenging game for us. I think the most important thing is for us to focus on doing the things we need to do to take care of our business, what we control. That's always the most important thing in games like this."
Just being on campus, being around the students and just being around the fans, it's a real genuine hate for Bama," Minter said. "They're just so passionate about us winning, and normally that's the big game. It's just that when someone stands in our way, they hate them. It's just how it is around here, and it kind of rubs off. To be honest, I don't necessarily like them too much any more either." Minter had his Alabama epiphany while driving around campus the week before his first LSU-Alabama game in Nov. 2009. "When you see it on every billboard, it hits you," he said. "You're driving past and you see how the people have the letters up there (on the marquee). You have the Smoothie King with 'Beat Bama' on the sign. And then you go down the street, and the McDonald's has 'Beat Bama.' Every sign you see is 'Beat Bama.' You know it's pretty serious down here."
"There are a lot of scars from that national championship game," LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. "You will see it on the field. The loss in the national championship game had a big impact on us. Going into last season, we had set goals like winning the national championship. Bama took that from us. They took that national championship ring. We want to show the world that we have bounced back from that loss."
There was plenty of talk out of Baton Rouge in the offseason -- including from Les Miles himself -- that Zach Mettenberger's arm was going to lead to a much more dynamic, consistent, meaningful LSU passing attack. So far, not so much: The Tigers are 109th in passing offense and an even more damning 90th in pass efficiency. But Mettenberger himself told the Times-Picayune none of that matters against Alabama. "It's a game I've prepared for my whole life," Mettenberger said. "You can look at the numbers all you want. For me, individually, they're not the prettiest thing there is, but we're winning football games. That's the important thing." Well, yes, but with prettier numbers, maybe the Tigers would have also won the Florida game -- and it's safe to say that Jordan Jefferson throwing 17 passes and gaining all of 53 yards in the BCS title debacle didn't do a lot for his team's cause that night. The win is, certainly, the important thing. But at least some statistical production from Mettenberger and Co. will be necessary to earn it.
LSU coach Les Miles said Death Valley was where "dreams go to die" after beating South Carolina at home last week. Alabama, for its part, is preparing for the nightmare, though very few starters actually have experienced it for themselves. Alabama lost three-quarters of the defense from a year ago, and AJ McCarron has never made the trip to Baton Rouge as the starting quarterback. Veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley said he will tell the younger players on the team to, "Just be ready for everything that can happen, because anything can. "I know how their fans are. It's going to be a great game. We just have to be ready for everything they do."
It's not drawing ''Game of the Century'' billing like the meeting 363 days before, which LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo called ''one of the fiercest games I've played in.'' Game of the year is certainly possible. That 9-6 overtime loss last season cost Alabama (8-0, 5-0) the SEC West, and maybe SEC, title if not the biggest prize. Even the Tide is manufacturing a little redemption storyline for Round 3. ''LSU is the SEC championship team or whatever, and not us, we're just the national championship team,'' Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood said on Monday. ''And that's one of our goals, to be the SEC championship team.'' ''To me, I like to fulfill all my goals, and that's one we didn't, so it's motivation for us.'
"Every year is a different year, and I think they have a little different team with different players with the way they're going about what they do," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. "They're very effective in what they do, but I think any time you play somebody in your division or conference every year, you sort of develop a history. I'm sure they have developed a history of the things we like to do as well. "You feel like you can do a little better job in preparation because you have that knowledge and experience, but just about every time these guys have played us, they do something a little bit different. So you have to be prepared to adjust as well."
Linebacker C.J. Mosley said Alabama has to "block out the clutter" if it wants to be successful in such a hostile atmosphere. "Some teams might go down there and just not have the right mindset or (be) ready to play and might let the crowd get to them or let the adversity get to them," he said. "But being where we are, we have to make sure we stay focused and block out all the clutter and just be ready for a physical game come Saturday."
Like many LSU fans, coach Les Miles spent his Saturday night watching the Alabama-Mississippi State football game on ESPN. The result was what the Tiger Nation wanted as the No. 1 Crimson Tide defeated the No. 12 Bulldogs 38-7 to stay undefeated and top ranked. This will help LSU's rankings should the Tigers (7-1, 3-1 SEC) upset the Tide, which is a nine-point favorite to beat the No. 5 Tigers at 7 p.m. Saturday on CBS in Tiger Stadium. But the way Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) under coach Nick Saban dominated from start to finish against a previously undefeated team was quite a bit to stomach. "I watched every snap on Saturday of the Mississippi State-Alabama game," Miles said at his press luncheon Monday. "And it looked just as bad on the coaches' (film) copy. It looks like that Alabama team's pretty good."
214.4: Average rushing yards per game by Alabama through eight games, just one-tenth of a yard fewer than the Crimson Tide's average last season. The LSU defense has so far allowed an average of 94.9 rushing yards per contest. Alabama freshman running back T.J. Yeldon is the Crimson Tide's leading rusher, averaging 81.1 yards per game, followed closely by junior and Geismar native Eddie Lacy, who averages 74.5 yards per game. "Lacy, he's just a tough runner," LSU junior defensive end Barkevious Mingo said. "He's hard-nosed just like Trent (Richardson) before him and Mark (Ingram) before him."
Eight games in, and Eddie Lacy is feeling fine. Four more to go, and T.J. Yeldon, if how he ran Saturday against Mississippi State is any indication, is healthy for the stretch run as well. University of Alabama coach Nick Saban has been feeding almost all of the team's rushing load to two running backs ever since he took the job at UA. And in November, when the cumulative grind of Southeastern Conference play begins to take its toughest toll on players, the Crimson Tide's running backs remain fresh. "We've always had two backs. It's sort of a philosophical thing that we like to have two backs," Saban said. "We think durability is such a critical factor in running backs, that if you play one guy all the time, it enhances his chances of maybe not being able to continue to play at the same level. it's always been our goal to play two guys. Not always equally, but fairly equally to where both guys have a better chance to sustain the season at a high level and are productive throughout."
Warmack was asked if he and Steen have to keep Jones informed about defensive movements when quarterback AJ McCarron is in the shotgun formation. "It's a tremendous thing to do in terms of Barrett making the calls as well as getting the snaps down, and I think we're doing a good job as guards letting him know, whether they're shift the scene or they're bringing something and he can't see it," Warmack said. "It's good to have guards looking at the right things, as well as tackles. Everybody has a job, and we all help each other."
"Our game plan's kind of fallen together like it would normally," he said. "I think that maybe (with) knowing the opponent as well as we know them and they know us - I don't know that the extra week is worth it. I think you don't necessarily need a full week to game plan." Besides, when playing a team as fundamentally sound as Alabama, which is No. 1 in the nation in total defense and second in turnover margin, Miles said fundamentals are the key. "It's a fundamental coach's game that way," he said. "You must improve your team because you must play best technique. When your team is matched with an equal team, the team that uses the best technique wins. So we've kind of focused on that in the last two weeks and we hope that we're improving that and will improve it again today."
"If there was anything I would say about last year's game," Saban said, "I think there is such a thing as almost being too ramped up for a game." The hype surrounding last year’s matchup of No. 1 and No. 2 SEC West powers was already growing before each team insured that it would enter the Nov. 5, 2011 showdown with an undefeated record. With both teams on a bye the week before the game, the national buzz had a full 14 days to marinate and simmer before the game finally kicked off at 7:14 p.m. CDT. At some point during it all, Alabama had maxed out. "When you play in games like this, everybody would say it's really critical you play your best in a game like this, but the formula and the recipe for what that is doesn't really change," Saban said. "Even though you'd like to change it, and put a little more sugar in the cake to make it taste better, it usually makes it taste worse."
Through seven games last season, before a showdown with LSU, Alabama scored touchdowns on 59 percent of its red-zone opportunities (24-41). The Tide has improved to 74 percent this season (26-35). "It's always frustrating to get that far and don't score a touchdown and only get field goals out of it," junior running back Eddie Lacy said. "As an offense, it's frustrating to get to the red area and don't put up points. It's something we've been working on and gotten better at this year."
Six of the seven touchdowns Bama has allowed this season have come with the Crimson Tide already leading by at least 17 points. Emphasis on allowed.