Jones Says Tide Has Work Cut Out

It may be hard to believe, but even as Alabama continues as the nation's number one college football team, some Crimson Tide fans are grumbling. Barrett Jones has heard the complaints. Never mind that Alabama is averaging over 214 yards per game rushing, some Tide fans don't like where the rushing is done: up the middle.

"That's always funny to me," said Alabama center Barrett Jones. "Fans say, ‘They keep running the ball up the middle.' I want to tell them, ‘Well, first of all there are about 20 different plays that go up the middle. It's not just the same play. They don't call, "Hey guys, up the middle on one."'

"It may not be exciting, but it's worked well for us. I think really good teams in Alabama history could run the ball pretty well between the tackles."

One of the keys on Saturday night in Baton Rouge will be whether the Crimson Tide can run the ball up the middle against a fierce LSU defense that allows fewer than 100 yards per game rushing. Bama, 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games, takes on fifth-ranked LSU (7-1, 3-1) at 7:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Tiger Stadium. CBS will televise the game.

Jones said the game "will definitely be the most physical game we play all year. The most physical games I've played in my life have been against them."

He called the LSU defensive front "great." Jones said the Tigers returned a lot of top men on the defensive front, that they are very deep, and that they rotate fresh players in.

"From what I've seen on film," he said, "they've improved even from last year. We have our work cut out for us."

Jones said, "We really respect the way they play football. They're not really going to try to trick us. They are going to line up and play their defense and we're going to line up and play our offense.

"That's why we like playing them and that's why they like playing us. We respect each other and we are founded on toughness."

Alabama vs. LSU is the number one game in the nation, just as it was last year when the Fighting Tigers defeated Alabama 9-6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa and when Bama downed LSU 21-0 in the BCS National Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

When Jones was asked if this Alabama season would be defined by Saturday night's game, he said, "It really wasn't last year, I guess. It was by the second one."

Nevertheless, he acknowledged, "It's a huge game, obviously.

"But I think there's a lot more to a season than just one game."

Unlike the regular season game between Alabama and LSU in 2011, both teams are not undefeated this year. LSU was upset by Florida in Gainesville. Jones said LSU losing did not have an affect on Alabama. "We just kind of try to focus on us," he said. "If you get caught up in all the BCS craziness, of wanting people to lose, wanting people to win, it gets crazy. It's a lot more fun when you can just control your own destiny. I've had it both ways. Trust me."

Jones said practice this week has been good. "We haven't really had much problem getting guys motivated, as you might could guess," he said. "We haven't really needed any dramatic speeches or anything. It's been good, but at the same time not really that different. It might be a little tempo difference, but you know how coach is; we don't really do anything special necessarily."

Jones has had a spectacular career, an all-star at right guard and left tackle before moving to center this year. He's been a starter on two national championship teams and last year the 6-5, 300-pound center won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman.

That body of work has invariably invoked the memories of previous great Alabama linemen, including John Hannah and Dwight Stephenson, regarded, respectively, as the best guard and the best center ever to play at Bama. Jones was asked about them.

"I've definitely heard of them, but I don't think I've had the pleasure of meeting them," Jones said. "I know they were really good. I see their names around here a lot, and obviously John Hannah's a guy that some people say was the best lineman ever."

Is Jones flattered to have his name mentioned with Hannah and stephenson?

"I've never heard that happen," he said.

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