Tide, Green Wave meet after very different weeks
TUSCALOOSA – Alabama spent the week basking in the glory of a surprising opening day romp, making the cover of Sports Illustrated and becoming one of college football’s teams of the moment.
Tulane labored quietly a few hundred miles from home, living out of a hotel and practicing on a strange field because of Hurricane Gustav.
After a week of vastly disparate distractions, the two teams meet Saturday night for the first time since 1994. Tulane has been staying in a Birmingham hotel for the past week.
“Any time you have to get up and move your entire football operations to a hotel several hundred miles away, it affects it,” Tulane coach Bob Toledo said.
And any time you open a season with a 24-point win over a Top 10 team on national television and make magazine covers, that can affect a team, too.
Especially when you’re favored by 30 points over a team that went 4-8 last season and has lost 32 consecutive games against ranked opponents.
Tulane defensive tackle Julian Shives-Sams doesn’t believe Tide coach Nick Saban will let Alabama overlook this game.
“If it was anybody else, I’d probably say yes,” Shives-Sams said. “But with a coach like Nick Saban, I’m sure they’re so focused on trying to just go into every week one week at a time. Some of my friends played (at LSU) when he was there.
“I doubt we’ll be overlooked.”
Alabama players repeatedly cite one potential advantage from Tulane’s situation: No classes. Tulane canceled school all week. Most of the Green Wave players watched Alabama’s opener together.
“The intensity and everything has got to be up because Tulane’s going to be film ready, if nothing else,” Tide center Antoine Caldwell said. “They’re going to be really watching us because they haven’t got anything else to do. So we’re going to have to be ready for them.”
Tulane is more of a mystery since it hasn’t played yet. Plus, the Green Wave is expected to replace 2,000-yard rusher Matt Forte with Andre’ Anderson, who has gained only 129 yards the past two seasons and is backed up by two freshmen.
Sophomore Kevin Moore takes over at quarterback. He threw for 432 yards last season without an interception in 54 attempts.
Adding to the mystery, Tulane has a new defensive coordinator in O’Neill Gilbert.
“Normally you’d be able to look at a team from the first week and see what they did,” Tide safety Rashad Johnson said. “We have to look back to their last season and see the things they did. It’s definitely going to be like another season opener for us.”
Tulane would like to see a couple of streaks end. The biggest is that 0-for-32 stretch against ranked teams dating back to a win over then-No. 12 LSU in 1982. Plus, the Green Wave have lost their last five season openers.
Toledo, at least, knows how to beat ‘Bama. He won both meetings while he was at UCLA.
“I know he will do a great job there and is doing a great job,” Saban said. “They played a lot of good football last year. They were one of the best teams in the country rushing the ball.”
Then again, Alabama held Clemson to zero yards rushing and Forte’s gone.
What got Tide safety Marquis Johnson’s attention even more quickly was that Tulane took eventual national champion LSU into halftime down by only a point last season. LSU went on to a 34-10 win.
Johnson also said some Alabama players still have the scores from upset losses to Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State posted in their lockers. The Tide lost those games after another dominant win over Tennessee.
“We all know we’ve got to stay focused,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to finish every game, no matter how you play. That’s how it’s got to be.”
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