University of Alabama

No road woes for the Crimson Tide

Nothing bothers Alabama running back Glen Coffee after he steps onto the football field — not the Tennessee band playing Rocky Top, not Georgia's intimidating blackout, not even his own home fans.

“When you get on the field, you don't really hear anything whether you're home or away,” Coffee said. “Those are external factors. Coach has preached to us that as long as we play Alabama football, it doesn't matter where we're at or who we're playing.”

The Crimson Tide has oddly played much better on the road than at home this season. Against teams from BCS conferences, Alabama's margin of victory away from home is 19 points greater.

Nobody has even managed to play a close game when hosting the Tide, as Alabama has dismantled the likes of Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee along with Clemson at a neutral site this year.

“I think it shows maturity on our team's part to be able to go into some of these difficult places to play,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It shows a lot of maturity on their part to be able to stay focused and execute and not be affected by the external factors in the game.”

If anything, those external factors have motivated the Tide to play even better.

The media hyped up Clemson's running back tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller all week leading up to Alabama's season opener with the Tigers, and many fans in Tuscaloosa were not even expecting the Tide to be able to hang with the No. 9 team in the country.

The response: Alabama's front seven dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Spiller and Davis to 20 combined rushing yards in a 34-10 victory and setting the tone for the season.

After a 49-14 blowout of Arkansas on the road in week 4, Georgia tried to distract the 4-0 Tide by calling for a black out. Instead of throwing off Alabama's game, the gimmick focused them, as the Tide silenced the darkened crowd with an overwhelming 31-0 halftime lead over the No. 3 team.

“I think we have a pretty good sense of how to handle things,” senior quarterback John Parker Wilson said. “We just go out there and have an us against the world mentality because I think that's where we go on the road.”

Wilson has played especially well away from home. He has completed 69 percent of his passes, nearly 15 percent higher than at home, and has not thrown an interception on the road this season.

“This is the most mature team I've been around,” he said. “I think our guys have it figured out. For me, it's just getting everybody on the same page.”

The Tide fields a young team, as only nine seniors are scattered across the Alabama roster.

“Maturity doesn't always just come with age,” Saban said. “I think that some of the younger players on this team have shown a lot of maturity in the way they are able to handle the circumstances they're in.”

The Tide's rare mixture of youth and maturity will endure one more road test this season when Alabama takes on LSU in Baton Rouge Saturday, a game with even more external distractions than any other the Tide has played in this year.

With the frenzy surrounding Saban's return to LSU, the Tide's No. 1 ranking and the SEC West title, Alabama is taking this as just one more game on the road.

“It's just the next game,” said center Antoine Caldwell. “It's going to be another hostile environment like we've played in all season long on the road.”

Caldwell said he actually likes playing on the road more so than at home.

“I actually enjoy playing on the road more than I do at home,” he said. “The feeling of it's just you against everybody else. That mentality has really worked for us this season so far, and we'll try to approach that game Saturday the same way.”

Besides, with the success Alabama has had away from home, who wouldn't enjoy the road more?