Saban talks about the game.... sort of

ATHENS -- When LSU officials learned Sunday night that ESPN's College GameDay preview show was planning to film in Baton Rouge on Saturday, it had to come as a blow to Tigers coach Nick Saban.

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 approach.

"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 of 143-27.

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."

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