ATLANTA (AP) - Nick Saban steered LSU to a share of college football's national championship in 2003.
Four years later, after a two-year stint as coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, Saban is back in the Southeastern Conference, back in the West Division with a chance to cost his old team any shot at the 2007 national crown.
The once-beaten Tigers, ranked No. 3 nationally and third in the BCS standings, would have a chance to play for the national crown by winning its final three games if either No. 1 Ohio State or No. 2 Boston College lose.
After his NFL foray, Saban decided he'd rather be coaching a college team. He got one, and it riled up the LSU faithful. He took the job at division foe Alabama, looking to return to its glory years as THE power in the SEC.
That move didn't sit well with LSU fans.
"The focus on the game should be about the players, not about anything else," Saban insisted. It won't be the focus of many in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.
Tide receiver D.J. Hall knows Saban is the big story this week.
"I don't think about it," Hall said. "He told us not to think about it. We all knew they were going to try to make this a Him vs. LSU kind of thing. We were prepared for it."
The Tigers have won four games in a row in the series, three in a row in Tuscaloosa and six of the last seven. LSU is a 7-point favorite.
Saban said his wife, Terry, has dealt more with the LSU tie in, finding hotel space and getting tickets and food to accommodate friends from their days in Baton Rouge. Under the right circumstances, Saban will be happy to see their old friends.
"We feed them if we win, they're on their own if we lose," Saban said. "Not to say we're sore losers or anything like that."
Saban's Baton Rouge friends better line up a restaurant for their postgame meal. LSU 28-17.
Elsewhere around the SEC this week, with Kentucky and Mississippi State having an open date:
No. 23 South Carolina (plus 4½) at Arkansas: Darren McFadden needs 7 yards to become only the second player in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. He will easily get those 7 yards to match Georgia's Herschel Walker, who did it from 1980-1982. With McFadden and Felix Jones, the Hogs will handle Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks. Arkansas 21-17.
Tennessee Tech at No. 19 Auburn: Derek White is averaging just under 117 yards per game for the Golden Eagles, but he'll discover a different level of defense at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn 31-0.
Vanderbilt (plus 16) at No. 18 Florida: Commodores have won only once at Florida Field and that came on their first visit, way back in 1945. Gators have won the last 16 meetings in building a 29-9-2 series lead. The Tim Tebow-led Gators will stretch the streak to 17. Florida 28-10.
Troy (plus 16½) at No. 10 Georgia: Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook likes his team. A lot. He says, "We are playing good right now but we can still improve. It's scary to think that we can get better. We have won a lot of games but we can still get better." He's right, but the Dogs have a little more on offense and defense, although winning won't be easy. Georgia 27-20.
Northwestern State at Mississippi: The Demons' porous defense is just the ticket for Seth Adams and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to roll up some impressive numbers for the Rebels. Ole Miss 42-7.
Louisiana-Lafayette (plus 29½) at No. 24 Tennessee: The teams have met only once previously and, as it has developed, it was significant. The Vols posted a 38-3 victory over the Ragin' Cajuns - then known as Southwestern Louisiana - on Sept. 5, 1992.
The significance? It was Phillip Fulmer's first game and first victory as coach of the Vols. This time it will be his 93rd victory. Tennessee 35-14.
Last week's totals: 4-2 straight, 1-4 vs. spread. For year: 53-16 straight, 23-37 vs. spread.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)