Speaking of what is at stake, LSU
head coach Nick Saban would rather eat a “steak” than talk about the stakes of
this weekend’s critical matchup with the red-hot Rebels.
“There is nothing at stake,” Saban
said. “We have a game next week. When you start acting like there is something
at stake that is when you mess up and create expectations and anxiety. Our worst
enemy right now is expectations.”
Expectations are high in Tigertown
as LSU clings to its highest ranking in 40-plus years and holds the school’s
best record since the days of Bert Jones. The Tigers are currently on a four
game winning streak since their only loss of the year last month to Florida and
have mowed through opponents like a John Deere in a hayfield. Expectations did
not appear to deter LSU last weekend as Saban’s squad went on the road
dismantling Alabama 27-3 on the Crimson Tide’s Senior Night at Bryant-Denny
“I was pleased with the way the
players focused on what they needed to focus on in terms of competing, which was
the game and not the stuff that a lot of people would like to talk about,” Saban
said. “We will try and have the same approach next week.”
Those things people like to talk
about include national polls, BCS rankings and the ultimate goal of the Nokia
Sugar Bowl, the site of the national title game. LSU is currently fourth in the
computer-generated rankings and is primed to move closer to a title game berth
if USC and Ohio State in front of them should falter.
With the game in Oxford ultimately
set to decide the SEC’s Western division champion, Saban hopes it is not his
Tigers that falter as LSU looks to win its 10th game of the season.
It could be Saban’s second 10-win tally in three years and the sixth, 10-win
season in school history. But those are storylines that Saban would rather leave
to keyboard pecking sports writers – not his team.
“Our greatest ally is our ability
to focus on what we are doing and play good football and keep our poise in doing
it,” Saban said. “(We need to) play together as a team, have confidence in what
we are doing and have fun taking advantage of this opportunity.”
Saban has made a habit lately of
not mixing words in addressing questions concerning the fate of his team. He was
criticized for downplaying the Florida game to excess. Saban continues to
minimize the task at hand, but his team’s play on the field shows they are
buying into to what he preaches.
“I know you all would like to mess
that up, but you aren’t going to do it,” Saban said.
But Saban knows he can only worry
about what he can control and the fourth-year head coach cannot stop the hoopla
and hype which will grow as the days grow fewer until Saturday’s kickoff with
“I know I mess you guys up in the
media, (louder) BUT write about it!” Saban said. “I just don’t want the players
to read it. Everybody else can talk about it but I don’t want to talk about it
and I don’t want our players to talk about it. I want them to play good football
because that is the best chance they have to take advantage of their
The Tigers have survived 10 weeks
of the regular season and looked poised to make a late season run as a
legitimate contender. Although the “Bristol Brainiacs” at ESPN continue to
ignore LSU’s push to national prominence, the Tigers are one of few teams left
in the hunt whereas the Hurricanes, Hokies and Seminoles of the college football
world are now playing second fiddle.
“Successful teams shut those things
out and I think that is the only way you can play with consistency,” Saban said.
“I think that is the reason you see teams get beat. Then you say how does
Clemson beat Florida State and how did Miami lose to this team and how does this
team lose to that team – that’s how it happens.”
One thing is for certain; Saban has
learned the lingo of Tigerland that surrounds the LSU program when things go
“The sun will not come up tomorrow
if we lose a game,” Saban said. “They sky is going to fall – it is catastrophe
in south Louisiana.”
Let’s just say, we are pretty sure
none of the above is likely to happen anytime soon.