FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Alabama junior receiver Kevin Norwood doesn't need long to capsule the preparation for last season's BCS championship game against LSU.
"That was our second time playing them," Norwood said. "The first time we played, we didn't do a good job in the passing game. We put a big emphasis on that, and then we went out and did our thing."
Coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide made the most of their second opportunity against LSU, thumping the Tigers 21-0 last January in New Orleans. Alabama had a stout night throwing the ball with AJ McCarron and dominated every other phase as well.
Alabama and LSU play annually as West Division members of the Southeastern Conference and have squared off three times in the last 15 months, but this year's title foe -- Notre Dame -- is an unknown to current Crimson Tide players.
The Tide and Fighting Irish have met six times, beginning with Notre Dame's 24-23 win in the 1973 Sugar Bowl, but have not played since 1987.
"It's very different this time, because last year it was a team we had already played," Tide senior center Barrett Jones said. "It was just another SEC game in the South, and it obviously had a very SEC feel to it. This year is much more like the 2009 title game [against Texas in the Rose Bowl] for me.
"We're not only facing an opponent we haven't played, but no one we have played has played them, so we have no exact measuring stick."
Last year's championship matchup was historic as the first with two teams from the same conference. It was not a popular pairing outside the Deep South, as its ratings were the third-lowest of the 14 title games in the BCS era.
LSU had won the regular-season meeting 9-6 in overtime at Tuscaloosa, and the two teams wound up playing eight quarters before a touchdown was scored.
"Last year, we knew everything possible about LSU," senior linebacker Nico Johnson said, "all the way back to when Coach Saban was there."
Enter the Fighting Irish, who were 32-31 in the five preceding years before reeling off this season's 12-0 record.
"It's a new year and a new location and a team I've never seen before," Alabama senior safety Robert Lester said. "I've heard so much from people who played in the '73 game. Those guys have told me they wish they could put on the pads and play for me, so it obviously means a lot to them."
Both teams were practicing in less-than-desirable weather before arriving Wednesday in the Sunshine State, and they since have been getting adjusted to the warmth. Monday night's forecast at Sun Life Stadium calls for mostly clear skies and 72 degrees.
Despite the unfamiliarity, the closer to kickoff, the more each team learns about the other.
"With this game, you have a long time to prepare for a team regardless if you've seen them or not," Tide guard Chance Warmack said. "They might bring something different, but preparation is always the key whether you've seen the team before or not. I think this large window of preparation helps."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...
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