River City Shootout: Tide-'Noles

The folks in Jacksonville who are promoting Saturday's matchup between No. 22 Alabama and Florida State have dubbed it the "River City Shootout." Alabama's players seem relieved to head into such a gun battle with a little more rest, since coach Nick Saban gave the team Monday off other than conditioning and a brief walk-through.

"This is something that Coach Saban had planned. He told us on Friday that we would get today off, so last week's game did not have an impact on that decision," said junior safety Rashad Johnson.

"Everyone needs a little break every now and then. We go at it so hard for such a long period of time. Your body can use the break. You are also able to clear your head a little bit as well."

Johnson will look to add to his two-interception total for the season against seasoned Seminole quarterback Drew Weatherford.

"It is exciting to play against a school like Florida State," he said. "They are always a great team. For us to play them and for me to have the opportunity to play against them is something I look forward to and cannot wait for. They will be a very fast and athletic team. They have some great athletes."

Hoping to sack Weatherford (or Xavier Lee, if he's in) is Tide senior defensive end Wallace Gilberry

"It is going to be a wonderful experience. I personally feel like it is going to be like a home game for us because I know how well our fans travel and support us," Gilberry said.

"The national publicity is going to be great, but that can't distract us from the task at hand, which is to go out and dominate. We have to do a good job in practice and film study and correct the mistakes we've made in the past two games, especially against the running game."

Some reports out of Jacksonville say 'Bama fans have gobbled up as many as 60 per cent of the tickets, despite FSU being designated the home team.

Sophomore offensive tackle Andre Smith of Alabama grew up rooting for Bowden and the Seminoles.

"We had a room in the house painted their colors (garnet and gold)," Smith remembered. "It had been a childhood dream to go to Florida State, but I ended up going to Alabama."

"When I went to the Miami-Florida State game, I remember (Bowden) knowing my name. When coach Bobby Bowden knows your name, not just that you're a player or something like that… that was pretty big."

Smith, a Birmingham native, said he played little league ball for the Pinson Valley Indians, whose uniforms mirror those of the Florida State Seminoles, and that helped him decide who to root for growing up.

Smith's line-mate, center Antoine Caldwell, says Bama will need to step it up this week on offense.

"Their defensive line is probably one of the strongest parts of their football team. We definitely have to come in, be focused and have one of the best weeks of practice we have had," noted the Rimington Award candidate.

"It's going to be a great challenge for us. I think that this loss we are getting over will help us prepare harder this week in practice and be more prepared for this football game. Florida State is a great football team, especially defensively, so it will be a good challenge. We will be ready on Saturday."

The Tide and Seminoles kick it off at 4:07 p.m. CDT Saturday, with CBS set to televise.

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