(2) Alabama - 35, Arkansas State - 0
By John Zenor - AP Sports Writer
November 2, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)—New No. 1 Alabama is heading to LSU for a big
game between two of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference. And
Nick Saban is returning to the stadium he once ruled.
Glen Coffee (38) runs in for a touchdown past Arkansas State
defensive back Dominique Williams (8).
Guess which topic makes the Crimson Tide coach more than a little
With his team off to a 9-0 start and now at the forefront of the
national title hunt after dispatching Arkansas State 35-0 on Saturday,
Saban doesn’t want to be the story line in his return to face No. 15
LSU. In fact, he bristles at the very subject.
“It’s going to be about our players and about our team,” he said
after Saturday’s game. “I don’t care how hard anybody tries to make
it about something else, it’s not going to be. I’m kind of giving you
a little forewarning.
“If somebody wants to get a you-know-what chewing this week, that’ll
be a good way to get it.”
It’s fairly certain Saban won’t be able to dodge questions about his
return to Baton Rouge no matter how hard he tries. Another sure-to-be
hot topic: The Tide’s first regular-season No. 1 ranking since losing
the top spot with a 6-3 loss to Mississippi State 28 years and a day
earlier when Bear Bryant still reigned.
Saban coached the Tigers from 2000-05, going 13-1 in 2003. His
homecoming to the school he spurned for a two-year stop with the
NFL’s Miami Dolphins just happens to coincide with what certainly
appears to be his best team since then. Saban’s return to an SEC West
rival makes a warm welcome by LSU fans highly unlikely.
You know Saban wants to avoid such talk when he even brings up his
team’s record, the type of subject he normally avoids with his
“It’s not going to be about that,” he said of facing his former team.
“This team is 9-0 and has played extremely well all year long. LSU
has a very, very good football team. They were national champs last
year, they’ve lost to two top-10 opponents this year, and we’ve got
to play them on the road.
“And it’s going to be about our players and their players and the
players on the field. That’s what it should be about. If anybody
makes it about something else, then you’re not really being fair
to the players.”
It could be about an Alabama defense that pitched its first shutout
in nearly three years against Arkansas State and produced its fourth
defensive touchdown on Rashad Johnson’s interception return. The Red
Wolves managed just 158 yards.
The Tide hadn’t won its first nine games since 2005, a season that
ended with losses to LSU and Auburn. The program’s last top ranking
came with the 1992 national championship after a Sugar Bowl win over
previously No. 1 Miami.
Alabama has won its past two games, including a visit to Tennessee,
by 55 points after a series of close calls or second-half letdowns.
Saban said he “shouldn’t have mentioned” the Tide’s record, but just
wanted to emphasize his players’ performance. Then he brought up the
ever-changing public perception of a team that needs only a win over
LSU to secure a spot in the SEC championship game.
“We didn’t have much respect starting out, got some respect, kind of
lost it in the middle by how we played, got it back last week,” he
said. “We did all that and never even lost a game. It doesn’t even
really matter what our record is now and it doesn’t matter about any
of that other stuff.
“The thing that I was emphasizing was what our players have
accomplished to this point. They shouldn’t be satisfied with that.
We shouldn’t be satisfied with that.”
Alabama has been rolling lately against teams the Tide was supposed
to beat, including a 29-9 win at Tennessee. Saban’s players are
following his lead in talking about the matchup with LSU.
“It’s just another SEC game,” tailback Glen Coffee said. “We’re
playing a great team, and all that extra stuff, let other people
talk about it.”
Saban said nose guard Terrence Cody remains “day-to-day” with a
sprained knee that has sidelined him the past two games, but thinks
he should be able to practice this week. Beyond that, Saban isn’t
certain. Josh Chapman has been starting in Cody’s place.
“A player shouldn’t lose his position because of injury, but how much
he’s going to be back in terms of his effectiveness relative to that
injury, I don’t know,” Saban said. “I don’t have a crystal ball.”