Nick Saban seems convinced the media is out to get him this week as No. 11 LSU (3-0) prepares to host No. 7 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC). The game, which pits the last two SEC champions, will kick off at 3:30 p.m. eastern time and be televised by CBS.
"I know everybody is here to make this out to be the biggest game of the
year," Saban said Monday to open his weekly news conference. "I know
it's on national TV and GameDay is here. I don't want to disappoint you with
how I approach this, but it's not really a defining game for the SEC. How
would it be if we won this week and lost to Mississippi State next week? It's
early in the season and the focus needs to be on every player getting better.
"I don't want to disappoint anybody, but that's how it is."
While a graduate student at Kent State in the early '70s, Saban was part of
research project that determined the best way to achieve high athletic
performance was to combine "high achievement motivation and low
anxiety," he said. He did his best Monday to keep the anxiety level
surrounding Saturday's game to a minimum.
"As media people, with all due respect, that's what you should do is
create interest. As a coach, I should create consistency," he said. "I
respect what you're doing. Respect what I do. I'm not going to say what you
want me to say."
What Saban seems to think the media wants to hear is that he won't let what
happened to Gerry DiNardo happen to him. DiNardo, like Saban, was in his fourth
season when he got his first visit from Georgia. The Tigers were ranked No. 6 in
the country that day in 1998 but lost 28-27 to the No. 12 Bulldogs and went on
to win just two of their next 14 SEC games before DiNardo was fired.
There's also the fact that LSU has never been ranked this high heading into
a game under Saban, but the coach is still sticking with his well-researched
"I know you would like to create as much anxiety as you can about this
game, but I'm not with you on that one," he said. "I don't think
the hype around the game and the anxiety as to how the fans feel about the game
is something (the players) need to be worried about."
What Saban want his team to be worried about is Georgia.
"They're a team that really beats you with good execution," he
said. "They don't trick you a lot. They don't change plays every week.
Their players play well. They execute very well, and that's how they beat you.
That's how most good teams beat you."
LSU has yet to face good competition, piling up wins and statistics against
Louisiana-Monroe, Arizona and Western Illinois and winning by a combined score
Now that the first marquee team of the season shows up on the schedule, Saban
is trying hard to keep his team focused on the process. He pointed to the 2001
season as proof of his point. That year, the Tigers lost their SEC opener 26-18
to Tennessee and then came back to beat the Vols 30-21 in the conference title
game and play in the Sugar Bowl.
"We don't need to be focused on the results of winning or losing the
game or trying to make this some kind of big game where the sky will fall if we
don't have big success," he said. "The sky will not fall."
Saban talks about the game.... sort of
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