NEW ORLEANS – From five weeks of waiting down to five days.
And the LSU players and Tigers coach Les Miles – with the finish line and a potential place in college football history in sight – made it very clear Wednesday that they’re eager for that shot at destiny.
The Tigers and Alabama arrived in the Crescent City Wednesday afternoon for the final leg of a long journey that began in August.
For top-ranked LSU (13-0), coming to New Orleans for the BCS National Championship Game isn’t coincidence just because this is where the Tigers won their 2003 and ’07 national crowns.
Instead, it’s just the next step in a season punctuated by off-field distractions, dominant performance between the white lines and knocking down every foe that got in the way.
Now, with the biggest game of the season – one of the handful of biggest in program history – just five days away, the approach is rather simplistic.
“We’ve got to go out to practice every morning and get better,” safety Eric Reid said. He was joined by Rueben Randle, Brandon Taylor and Will Blackwell after Miles spoke. All four are Louisiana natives.
“13-0 is fantastic, but if you’re 13-1 when it’s all said and done, you don’t have that ring. We need to get this done. It’s a business trip and we’ve got to get this victory.”
For LSU to complete that task, beating No. 2-ranked Alabama (11-1) is the final hurdle and it’s a steep one.
Ever since the pairing was revealed on Dec. 4, the debate has raged whether or not the Crimson Tide deserved this unprecedented rematch of conference foes for the biggest prize after LSU went to Tuscaloosa and claimed a 9-6 overtime victory in November.
Blackwell wasn’t shy about his feelings during what seemed like an innocuous session with the local media last week when he said the Tigers will take the Superdome floor with a chip on the their shoulders.
National media outlets took that and turned it into controversy, or at least tried to.
Miles shrugged of the notion of LSU playing the underdog or underappreciated role against Alabama.
“I don't know that there's any chip on our shoulders,” Miles said. “I don't think there needs to be a chip on the shoulders of an undefeated football team. The things they've accomplished stand for themselves. I think this team needs to finish.
They understand there's one piece to attain, one goal left. I promise you they will play extremely hard to that end.”
Blackwell didn’t exactly relent, though, saying “We don’t really have a chip on our shoulder. We’re just excited to play this game. I kind of feel like if it was the other way around, we wouldn’t have gotten in. But at this point that’s irrelevant and none of that matters any more. We’re looking forward to playing Alabama for a championship.”
Like the LSU players have for 32 days, let that soak in.
Playing for a championship. In the Superdome. With a chance to finish 14-0 and join the 2009 Crimson Tide and 2010 Auburn teams as the only teams in college football history to do so.
Yeah, there’s no shortage of reason to be excited, focused and motivated.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Miles said, as loose Wednesday as he has been every step of this season. “We look forward to finishing and accomplishing a game plan and putting this team in position to play well.”