Nothing gets college-football fans more riled up than a coach who bolts for a big-money contract in the NFL. Wait, there's one thing that's...

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Nothing gets college-football fans more riled up than a coach who bolts for a big-money contract in the NFL.

Wait, there’s one thing that’s even worse: When that same coach returns to the same conference to lead a rival school.

That’s why Nick Saban is so reviled in Cajun country, this week more than ever as his former team, No. 3 Louisiana State, gets set to play his current team, No. 17 Alabama.

At least Saban has the good fortune of playing Saturday’s game in Tuscaloosa, where he’ll be in the safe confines of adoring fans who have already anointed him the second coming of Bear Bryant.

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Just imagine if he had to go to Death Valley this weekend.

“They may have had to add a little something extra to the police force,” Saban quipped Wednesday.

Otherwise, he insists this matchup is nothing personal. It will be decided by the players on the field, Saban said, not the guys on the sidelines or the people in the stands.

“Look, I had a lot of great relationships with a lot of people at LSU,” Saban said, offering up his version of a truce. “I’m sure some of those people are anxious for this game. Anytime you know somebody and have relationships with people, it creates a tremendous opportunity when you compete against them. You don’t really have to hate somebody to compete against them.”

Maybe not, but there are plenty of folks in Louisiana who despise Saban for abandoning the Tigers after the 2004 season, then returning just three years later to lead a team that’s in the same division as LSU and standing in the way of a possible run at the national championship.

Saban’s successor, Les Miles, chose his words carefully when asked if there was a different feeling about this game.

“I probably got more ticket requests from boosters than I normally do,” he said. “Knowing the opponent’s coach as well as they do around here has certainly made it a little bit more interesting.”


• Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter threw in practice Wednesday for the first time since he sprained the thumb on his throwing hand. Carpenter is expected to play when the sixth-ranked Sun Devils visit No. 4 Oregon on Saturday. “I thought he threw it real well,” coach Dennis Erickson said.

Carpenter wore a glove on his throwing hand in practice so he could grip the ball better. Erickson said he doubted Carpenter would use the glove in Oregon.

• Tennessee tailback LaMarcus Coker and defensive tackle Demonte Bolden will miss Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette because of a violation of team rules.

• LSU linebacker Derrick Odom was charged with a misdemeanor, accused of smashing a car window after a brawl at a nightclub last week. Odom was kicked off the team along with walk-on linebacker Jeremy Benton. Backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who also was in the fight, won’t play Saturday.

• South Carolina will honor students killed in a beach-house fire by placing stickers on their helmets with the phrase “Forever to thee,” a line from the school’s alma mater.

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