The Game: Tide and Tigers roll into New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS—No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama had just gotten into town, and already it felt a little like a home game for the Tigers.
"If we can't play this game in Tiger Stadium, the only place we'd rather play it is here," LSU offensive guard Will Blackwell said.
The Southeastern Conference rivals both arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday to prepare for the first BCS title game ever to feature teams from the same league.
For Alabama, it was a short flight, and a brass band greeted the Crimson Tide (11-1) as they got off the plane, while somebody shouted "Roll Tide!" as coach Nick Saban talked to reporters.
That was low key, though, compared to the band plus 100-or-so revved up fans and the big stuffed tiger that met LSU at a downtown hotel, sticking around even though they had to wait an extra 40 minutes because one of the Tigers' buses developed a problem on the way down from Baton Rouge and couldn't break 60 mph.
"The attachment to this city is one this team really feels," LSU coach Les Miles said. "You think (a greeting like this) is going to subside but this is going to continue for the week."
He wasn't worried about it all going to his players' heads. After all, LSU (13-0) has already won the SEC championship and beaten Alabama on its home field.
"I think they know how to remove distractions," Miles said.
A trip to New Orleans was Alabama's goal all season, too.
"This is a special place, it's a special city, it's a special opportunity for our team to play against an outstanding LSU team," Saban said.
"In the spirit of competition, this is about as good as it gets."
The regular-season meeting between the SEC West rivals was in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a bare-knuckled brawl of a game the Tigers won 9-6 in overtime.
"The big thing that we've tried to focus on in terms of what we learned in that game is the technical aspects of things that that we could have done better, maybe from a schematic standpoint, maybe from an execution standpoint," Saban said.
"We did learn a lot from that game in terms of the things we can do better."
While some have questioned whether Alabama deserved a second chance at LSU and whether it's fair to the Tigers that they have to beat the Crimson Tide again to win a national championship, neither team feels that this game is anything other than winner take all.
"It's a one-game season right here and we know they're going to bring their all and they know we're going to bring our all," Alabama running back and Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson said.
Few cities can throw a party like New Orleans and it's always been a hub of sorts for the SEC. The French Quarter should be awash in Alabama crimson and LSU purple and gold by the weekend.
It'll be fun -- for the fans.
"Everybody's got their heads on right, so we're not expecting anybody to get into trouble," Richardson said. "It's strictly business for us."
Miles said he met with his team leaders and they suggested an early curfew.
"We have a very, very early curfew comparatively to other bowls that we've attended," he said, but did not go into details. "I think the celebration may be put off for a while."
Alabama is looking for its second BCS title in the last three seasons.
LSU is shooting for BCS championship No. 3. The previous two (2003 and 2007) were won in the Superdome.
Blackwell was a redshirt freshman on that '07 team, which beat Ohio State to win the title.
LSU fans clearly outnumbered Buckeyes fans back then. Alabama fans might not be so easy to drown out on Monday night.
"I would imagine it would be about as close to even as it could be," Blackwell said. "But Tiger fans are loud so we'll have to see during the game who the advantage really goes to."
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in New Orleans contributed to this report.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP