While the game Saturday between Alabama and LSU has been labeled “The Game of the Century,” the Crimson Tide players are focused on tuning out the hype and facing this week’s opponent like they have every other team.
“We’re going to do the same, prepare every week like it’s the national championship,” senior tight end Brad Smelley said. “It’s just the next game is the most important game. We’ve tried to downplay the hype a little bit. It’s all about us and what we do. If we execute, we’ll have a good day on Saturday.”
Defensive lineman Jesse Williams said to avoid some of the buzz, he listens to music as he walks around campus.
“[Students] know a lot of the time that you don’t want to talk about the game all the time, especially during class,” he said. “I just try and be polite and not knock anyone off. I try long sleeves, long pants, with a hoodie usually works. Like I said, headphones, walk fast, and the tattoos are a little intimidating, so it kind of works to my advantage.”
A recent rival
In the past couple of years, as both teams have risen in national prominence, this game has grown in importance. Over the past decade, Alabama is 3-7 against the Tigers, having lost last year’s game 24-21 in Baton Rouge, La.
“It’s always a smash-mouth game,” Smelley said. “We love playing in it, and [LSU] has kind of become a pretty big rival. Everybody hypes us this game, so we’re excited to play in it, ready to get after it and compete with these guys.”
Williams said the people back in Australia don’t quite understand the magnitude of this game.
“They grasp the concept, but without it being the national championship, they don’t really understand the regular season or different conferences and stuff like that, but they just know it’s a huge game, and I’m sure whatever the outcome, they’ll start to get an idea of how crazy it is over here,” he said.
In the past couple of games, the Tide hasn’t been starting strong, letting opponents get early points and early leads. Both Ole Miss and Tennessee scored first in their respective games against Alabama. The game against Tennessee was also the only game this season Alabama went into the half without a lead.
“I don’t really make much of it,” Smelley said. “We’ve had games where we came out rolling, and a couple of games where it took a quarter to get rolling. I think we’re ultimately being efficient and getting all 11 guys on the same page. We usually got that done. That slow start, just got to push through it.”
According to rankings and stats, LSU will be the most talented team Alabama has played this season, and getting behind early to the Tigers could be much more costly.
“Obviously, we don’t want to get behind in the game, but as far as that’s concerned, if that’s just how it goes in the game, we’re going to have to bounce back and keep playing,” Smelley said. “Just because we get behind that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop fighting.”
While all the hype has been around running back Trent Richardson as a Heisman trophy candidate this year, center William Vlachos revealed former Alabama running back Mark Ingram’s vote for the Heisman trophy last year.
“Ingram actually voted for me last year for Heisman,” Vlachos said. “Seriously.”