The difference between 7-1 and 6-2 seems to be a million miles for LSU fans, but coach Nick Saban would like to think the distance really isn't that far between last year's national championship team and a 2004 team that won't even play for the SEC championship.
"If you take one win away from last year's team, any win, they wouldn't have won the championship," Saban said. "If you add one win to this team, where would we be?
"And in that, we go from a euphoric last year to a miserable this year? I don't. I don't."
That said, LSU's goals remain the same this week: beat the next team on the schedule. This week the opponent just happens to be Alabama, a program that has made a habit of winning in Baton Rouge over the past four decades.
"We didn't refine any goals," Saban said. "My goal for this program is to have a dominant, nationally recognized program, not to win the national championship every year like you all (the media) want to and like you all made this year to be. That didn't help our team all that much either in trying to deal with winning a championship.
"Every now and then you win one, and you try to deal with it, and you try to come back from it, but we want to have a good program around here, a nationally recognized program that graduates players, that has people act like they're supposed to act and help them be more successful in life ... and all that."
Despite the perception of disappointment, the Tigers are still 6-2, 3-2 in the SEC West, ranked 17th and still capable of playing in a quality bowl. While road losses to No. 3 Auburn and No. 8 Georgia are understandable, that perception of disappointment might actually have more to do with the fact that the Tigers recently looked unimpressive in victories over Vanderbilt and Troy and have yet to beat a team that is currently ranked. Florida was ranked 12th when LSU beat the Gators 24-21 on Oct. 9, but the Gators have since dropped out of the rankings.
"I'm disappointed we haven't been as consistent this year," Saban said. "But we've played very good football at times."
While the Tigers can no longer win the national or SEC championships, Saban said he remains focused on the same thing that drove last year's title team: getting better every week and winning the next game.
"I think every game's an important game, and I think this is a really important game," Saban said. "There's not going to be any place to hide if you're not a tough guy. I think this game's going to be about toughness."
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