BCS media day: LSU, Alabama can't wait to play
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
The head coaches and Heisman Trophy finalists Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu got their own assistants and seats of honor at BCS media day Friday - college football's downsized version of the annual Super Bowl free-for-all.
Both star players shared Richardson's sentiment: ''We've been practicing so long, everybody's just ready for this game to get here.''
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban expects some pre-game butterflies and figures it does help some to have players who have been through it before. Alabama beat Texas in the title game two years ago.
''Regardless of how many times you've been in a game like this, there's still going to be some anxiety,'' he said. ''I do think that maybe some of the older players on the team that are the leaders on our team who have been in this situation before have certainly helped some of the other players who are looking for leadership.''
There was a smattering of light-hearted questions - What's the most embarrassing song on your iPod? - but the atmosphere was decidedly lower key than the circus-like feeling at the Super Bowl.
It will be the first time under the BCS format that two teams from the same conference have played for the championship, leaving some to wonder whether once-beaten Oklahoma State should have gotten a shot at the title.
''The best teams are playing,'' Richardson said. ''The voters chose right. If we want a ball game that's going to be 45-13, then put somebody else in the game. But if we want a ball game that's going to be well played and it's going to be a slugfest ... nobody has played a game like we have when it comes to living up to the hype.''
LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo said, ''I don't think anything can compare to this go-around. It's the national championship. It's for all the marbles.''
Some highlights from media day:
TESTING THE WATERS: Several players from both teams will have to decide after Monday night's game whether they will declare for the NFL draft or return to school for another season.
All-American cornerback Morris Claiborne of LSU is expected to be a top-10 selection if he leaves early, though he insists the riches of the NFL are not on his mind.
''I've just been brushing it off and not trying to deal with it at this point,'' Claiborne said. ''As of this moment, I'm an LSU Tiger and I'm trying to win a national championship.''
His teammate, defensive end Sam Montgomery, said that he received positive reviews when he asked for scouts to grade his performance this season. But during media day Friday, Montgomery let it slip that he had decided to return to Baton Rouge for another season.
''I've got a lot more football to learn,'' he said.
BUSINESS, NOT BOURBON STREET: The always-focused Saban gets his own brand of pleasure from the New Orleans experience, and it doesn't involve drinking hurricanes.
''It depends on how you sort of categorize enjoyment,'' Saban said. ''I enjoy the fact that our team has an opportunity to play in such a great competitive venue. I enjoy the work of trying to get the team ready to play the way they're going to need to play to have an opportunity to be successful.
''It's very challenging. So that's my enjoyment. Now, maybe your perception of enjoyment is you go out and have a party. Well, that's not my enjoyment of this experience.''
Likewise, LSU coach Les Miles says he's all about preparation.
''Right now there's no enjoyment,'' he said. ''I promise you that when we take the field, I will be preparing to enjoy myself for that evening.''
DIGGING THE HOUNDSTOOTH: The snickers floated from Tuscaloosa all the way to the Bayou when LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery was asked about former Tide coach Bear Bryant last November.
''I don't know anything about Bear Bryant,'' Montgomery said earnestly before the first meeting between the two teams. ''I really haven't looked at film that much.''
Apparently, it takes more than six national championships to get on Montgomery's radar.
He wasn't going to make the same mistake this week in New Orleans, though. He went to Google and made sure he was prepared the next time the legendary coach's name was brought up.
''I was one of those guys who never watched ESPN, never watched sports. So if they would have read up on me, they would have known why I didn't know who bear Bryant was,'' Montgomery said. ''But I took some time out of my day to find out who Bear Bryant was, and I have a lot of respect for that man.''
PLAYER COACH: Before blowing out his knee, Josh Dworaczyk was expected to be one of the leaders of LSU's offensive line.
The senior guard had started 23 consecutive games.
Unable to contribute on the field, Dworaczyk became the Tigers de facto offensive line coach, plugging a hole caused by the coaching staff shake-up that developed from a far more serious health issue that confronted LSU leading up to the season.
Offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in August and had to relinquish that job. He remained the quarterbacks coach and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa became the offensive coordinator and play caller. That put Studrawa up in the coaches box and away from the sideline during games.
''They didn't have anybody coming off (the field) to make the adjustments with the line, and that concerned me,'' Studrawa said.
Then, soon after LSU found out about Kragthorpe, Dworaczyk got hurt in practice.
''How do you turn tragedy into triumph? There's the missing piece to the puzzle,'' Studrawa said. ''He knows this offense as well as I do.''
Dworaczyk said after he got hurt he went to the coaches and told them he wanted to stay involved.
''They were like, `We need somebody down there. These guys need a familiar face, someone they can talk to,''' he said. ''Just small things. With (fellow guard Josh) Williford on a pull, I might come and say, `Hey, Williford, next time you pull around, when you come around, come a little bit tighter.'
''Then I see him do it and the next play springs for 10, 15, touchdown, and it's like, my small contribution helped this guy out.''
BUSY WEEKEND: There will be nonstop activity throughout the weekend inside the Superdome, which is hosting a Saints playoff game on Saturday night and the BCS title game 48 hours later.
During media day, the lower edges of field level stands were decorated with BCS banners, while the Saints fleur-de-lis logo on the 50-yard line was covered by a tarp.
''What makes this particularly challenging is we've got a national championship - it's not just any college football game on Monday night - and you've got a playoff game,'' said Doug Thornton, a vice president of SMG, the company that manages the state-owned Superdome and neighboring New Orleans Arena (which also was hosting an NBA game Friday night).
''We've got to work around the team practices. We've got to work around media day. We have to do a lot of our work at night when folks are not here,'' Thornton said.
After media day, Superdome crews had to remove the BCS logos from interior facades and replace them with Saints logos. Thornton said stadium crews also had the unusual task of helping two major television networks, NBC and ESPN, set up equipment and run cables for their respective broadcasts.
The moment the Saints game ends, crews will removing Saints banners from the stadium as well as NFL and Saints logos from the field, which will then be repainted with Alabama, LSU and BCS logos while BCS banners are rehung throughout the stadium. The NFL hash marks also will be removed from the field, and wider college hash marks repainted.
About 350 people will work overnight Saturday and Sunday cleaning the stadium and restocking concession stands, which Thornton described as a ''herculean effort.''
AP Sports Writers Dave Skretta and Brett Martel contributed to this report.