With the Tigers ranked third behind USC in the BCS standings, it's only natural that LSU fans and the media want to talk about the possibility of the Tigers playing for the national championship.
It's even more important for the Tigers themselves that they ignore all that talk because if they don't beat Georgia for the SEC championship on Saturday, all that national championship stuff will be moot.
"We're not playing for the BCS and all that stuff right now," LSU offensive tackle Rodney Reed said. "We're just playing for each other and to win the SEC Championship Game. We're just trying to dominate, and the result is to win an SEC championship and maybe have a chance to play for something bigger than that."
If the Tigers (11-1, 7-1) need any sobering reminders of what can happen to national championship hopes in the SEC Championship Game, they can always look back to what happened to Tennessee in the 2001 title game. Tennessee entered the conference championship game ranked No. 2 in the BCS and appeared to be headed to the Rose Bowl to play Miami for the national title. Vols fans even threw roses to their players roses after the Vols defeated Florida to win the SEC East. Instead of playing for the national title, though, Tennessee lost 31-20 in the SEC championship game.
Tennessee's opponent in that game? LSU.
"We are certainly aware of that as a staff and we'll make our players aware that the most important game is the one we have in front of us. We can't control all that other stuff," Saban said. "You look around college football, there is only one undefeated team (Oklahoma) and only two teams (Southern Cal and LSU) who have only lost once. It's difficult to maintain a focus when you go around talking where you're at in the BCS."
The Tigers can't do anything about all the talk about national championships, but at least they've shown an ability in recent weeks to shut it all out and focus on the task at hand.
"We won't stop that, because that's what makes us a championship ballclub," said LSU wide receiver Michael Clayton, a freshman on the 2001 team. "We know how to win. We're going to stay engrossed in what we know how to do."
That was evident in the Arkansas game. With the game tied at 17 in the second quarter, the Razorbacks appeared to be standing toe-to-toe with the Tigers. Then LSU took over and dominated the second and third quarters on the way to the 55-24 victory.
"I always talk about how you want to compete and stay in the present moment all the time," Saban said, "because next week you get a bigger challenge, and you get more of what you were worried about this week -- if you worry about it.
"If you stay focused on the process, you don't really worry about it. You just go do what you've got to do to play well and do the best that you can to prepare your players to play well. That's what we try to focus on."
Playing Georgia is tough enough with the SEC championship on the line, but the challenge will be steeper because the Bulldogs are out to prove something after losing 17-10 at LSU on Sept. 20. To do that, they'll have to beat an LSU team that is a lot better than the one they faced nine weeks ago.
"We've improved in several areas," Saban said. "I've been pleased with our production, especially the ability to run the ball with more consistency. I think our special teams and defense has played better as the season has worn out. I certainly think we've improved in all areas, but mostly with our consistency."
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