Bama will be in what Franchione calls "the first hostile environment" of the year when the Tide goes to South Carolina Saturday. There are predictions of a record crowd in Columbia when Alabama takes on the South Carolina Gamecocks at 12:30 p.m. EDT (11:30 a.m. CDT) in a game regionally televised by Jefferson Pilot. South Carolina is winless in 10 tries against Alabama, but this year the Gamecocks are ranked 15th in the nation and favored to win the game. South Carolina is 3-0, including 2-0 in Southeastern Conference games, while Alabama is 2-1, and also 2-0 in the SEC.
Alabama had been expected to go into the indoor practice facility and work with crowd noise Thursday. Instead, the team was outdoors in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, but had the loudspeakers blaring. Franchione said, "I think anytime you go into a situation like we're expecting it requires better communication and better focus. I think the 25 minutes we spent on that was good. It turned things up a notch." In addition to working on audibles, the Tide worked on substitution in the noise environment.
The Tide coach noted that while this is the first time this year the Tide has faced a dramatic home field disadvantage, there are a number of players who have been in hostile situations like the Swamp at Florida. He said that a competitor feeds off the noise and "true competitors like to silence the crowd and draw energy off that." But, he said, the important thing is that the team have good "focus, communication and mental toughness."
Franchione said that Alabama had a good workout Thursday and a good week of preparation. He said, "We're trying to minimize things that hurt us on offense."
He said there would be at least one change in the offensive starting lineup. Donnie Lowe, who was Bama's first team fullback prior to suffering a concussion in the pre-season, will get the start ahead of Marvin Brown, who had two fumbles and dropped a pass that likely would have been a touchdown in last week's 31-10 win over Arkansas.
Franchione said he had not yet decided whether Dante Ellington would retain his job at strongside tackle or if Evan Mathis would move up. Ellington, a junior who is the most experienced Alabama offensive lineman, has been guilty of several penalties this year.
The Tide coach said, "We're going to have to do a good job in the running game. They are a physical team and we're going to have to play physically."