AP Images for Allstate, Cheryl Gerber
NEW ORLEANS — They've done it all before, already faced off in a Game of the Century.
Some remember that first meeting as a defensive slugfest. Others complain it was an offensive snorefest.
Well, put it out of your mind.
This is the one that really counts.
Call it the Rematch of the Century.
Top-ranked LSU and No. 2 Alabama will meet for the second time in a little over two months Monday night at the Superdome. Their first encounter, it turns out, was just a warm-up for the BCS championship game.
Alabama coach Nick Saban hopes his team learned from the initial contest, a no-touchdown affair in Tuscaloosa that required extra time and resulted in a 9-6 overtime victory for the Tigers.
"Sometimes when you have a negative experience, you're more willing to maybe learn some of the things that can be valuable to you in the future," Saban said. "I look at the first game as more of an opportunity for us to learn and understand some of the things that we're going to need to do to be able to have a chance to be successful this time."
Everyone expects more scoring in the rematch, but there's no way it's turning into one of those back-and-forth shootouts we've seen so many times this bowl season.
These are two stellar defenses, a pair of teams that buck the trend toward a college game dominated by point-a-minute offenses.
"I'd expect it to be big-boy football," LSU coach Les Miles said.
LSU (13-0) has already put up a body of work that clearly establishes it as the nation's best team. In addition to its Nov. 5 win at Alabama, the Tigers have victories over two other major bowl champions: Rose Bowl winner Oregon and Orange Bowl champ West Virginia. In all, they've knocked off eight teams that were ranked in The Associated Press Top 25, with only three of those games in Baton Rouge.
"The only team I've told them not to schedule is the Green Bay Packers," Miles quipped.
Maybe it's only appropriate for the Tigers to find one more daunting challenge standing in the way of a championship season — a great team they've already beaten.
"When we take the field, we'll be an emotional, fired-up football team," Miles vowed.
Alabama (11-1) didn't even make the championship game of the Southeastern Conference, but the Crimson Tide managed to sneak back into the national title race when Oklahoma State lost late in the season. In the strangest of twists, Saban's team will be the one celebrating its second national title in three years with a mere split of the season series with LSU.
Perhaps sensing just how fortuitous Alabama was to get a do-over, Saban wants his players to seize the moment.
"I would like for them to focus on the opportunity, not the pressure part," he said, "so that they really are zeroed into the mental practice and the things that when they go out there and play, they're going to be confident in doing their job the way they need to do it to have success."
That sort of robotic talk is typical of Saban, who spits out championship teams with assembly line precision, devoid of any flair. While Miles' disjointed grammar and goofy antics make it difficult to take him seriously at times, there are no such issues with Saban. He's all business, mixed in with a healthy dose of fear and autocracy.
"He's not like that all the time. He does have a personality," junior Robert Lester said. "But he's hard on us because he wants us to get the job done. On the field, he demands what he wants. By doing so, the guys go out there and try to do it perfect to please him. It works. You can tell, because we're playing in the national championship game again."
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