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October 30, 2012

Bama prepares for pressures of Tiger Stadium

TUSCALOOSA | Maybe it's the 22 straight home victories on the turf at Tiger Stadium.

Perhaps it's the fact that opposing players have to run onto the field past a live, caged tiger.

Or it could be the nickname.

"You go play somewhere called Death Valley," University of Alabama running back Eddie Lacy said, "you know it's going to be pretty tough."

The top-ranked Crimson Tide will try Saturday to walk through LSU's valley of death, where not a single current UA player has experienced victory as an on-the-field player. Alabama lost at LSU in 2010 and last won there in 2008, when current fifth-year seniors such as Robert Lester and Barrett Jones were sitting out as redshirt freshmen.

While Alabama did defeat LSU inside Louisiana state borders in New Orleans in January to win the Bowl Championship Series national title, playing the Tigers in Baton Rouge is another matter entirely.

Ask LSU coach Les Miles, who made this proclamation a few weekends ago after the Tigers defeated South Carolina: "That was Death Valley. That was the place where opponents' dreams come to die."

Alabama expects a tough game from the fifth-ranked Tigers, and a tough environment on the road.

"The main thing is just the atmosphere, the crowd," UA linebacker C.J. Mosley said.

"Some teams might go down there and just not have the right mindset, aren't ready to play. They might let the crowd get to them, might let the adversity get to them, but being where we are we have to make sure we stay focused and block out all the clutter and be ready for a physical game."

LSU fans create rock concert-level noise at their home games. For Alabama, it might be even more raucous than usual.

"I don't know the crowd that well besides that they hate us, of course, and that they're going to be loud," Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood said.

"I'm pretty sure they hate us because of what happened last year. I'm sure they have us circled on their calendar and have all kinds of pictures and stuff up. I'm pretty sure they have some motivation going."

The most tangible advantage for LSU playing at home is the communication problems the crowd noise can create for opponents.

"When you are playing on the road, it takes a special focus to be able to execute and do the things and stay tuned to what you have to do to be successful," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Alabama players want to make it more about the game than the venue.

"You can talk, you can say whatever you want. But at the end of the day you have to play on the field," Lacy said.



Reach Tommy Deas at tommy@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0224.


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