Tuesday, October 7, 2003
Will a week off mean trouble for the Tigers?
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's bye week, coming five games into
the season, gave the No. 6 Tigers time to rest and recuperate.
That's good, coach Nick Saban said.
Now that LSU (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) is preparing for
Florida (3-3), Saban will find out if the time off will also have
some bad results.
"The question that you always have is, once you get out of your
routine of playing week in and week out, how do you focus for
playing games?" Saban said. "In some degree you want the players
to take a break emotionally, because of the stress of preparing for
games, but at the same time they have to refocus and get ready to
go again. That is going to be the challenge for us this week."
Along with getting back in game-mode, Saban wants to make sure
his players don't look at Florida's problems this year.
The Gators have lost two of their last three games and dropped
out of the Top 25. Last week's 20-17 loss to Mississippi was
Florida's first home loss to an unranked team in 61 games, dating
to 1989, when the same Rebels won 24-19 in the season opener.
But Saban, who downplayed LSU's facing Georgia earlier in the
season, reversed psychology this week, warning his players not to
look at Florida's struggles.
"There are certain teams in every league and certain teams in
the country that have great tradition, and are elite teams in your
league, regardless of what their record is or where they are right
now, they still have that elite status," Saban said. "When you
play against those teams and have success against those teams that
is the only way to get to their peer level. Florida certainly has
that in our league, and they are the school tradition-wise to have
the most success over the last 12 to 15 years."
The Tigers have reason to respect the long time SEC power.
Florida has won four of the last five and 13 of the last 15
meetings between the teams.
Last year, however, LSU beat Florida 36-7 in Gainesville.
"That gave us confidence and incentive," said LSU tackle
Rodney Reed. "To beat them two times in a row would be quite an
accomplishment. Not many people have done that over the years."
Florida has a lot of new players this season, 44 of them have
played for the first time, including 14 freshmen.
"They have young players and they've had some trouble," said
defensive end Marquise Hill. "But those people all got
scholarships to Florida and that doesn't happen unless your good.
We know that. We won't take them lightly."
Florida's freshman quarterback Chris Leak is poised and can be
dangerous, Saban said. The Gators are averaging 35.3 points per
game. Saban said tailbacks DeShawn Wynn and Ran Carthon are
impressive runners, and Kelvin Kight is one of the best receivers
in the SEC.
That, and history, will keep LSU on track, said tackle Chad
"We don't want to get caught up in the media, the BCS, the 5-0,
all that," Lavalais said. "I think that's what got some guys last
year when we got off to a good start and lost three of the last
four. This year, we want to stay focused."