NASHVILLE, Tenn. — La’el Collins walked into the main atrium of the Opryland resort and turned to LSU running back Terrence Magee.
“Is this all a hotel?” LSU’s left tackle asked. “This is pretty huge.”
Later, Magee said he had no answer for Collins. He had never been here, either.
“It’s gigantic,” Magee said.
No. 22 LSU (8-4) arrived at the resort on a rainy Saturday afternoon for its five-day stay in Nashville ahead of Tuesday’s Music City Bowl matchup with Notre Dame (7-5).
Several dozen purple- and gold-clad fans lined velvet ropes as LSU players and staff members filed into the resort, the largest non-casino hotel in the United States outside of Las Vegas. The 2,800-room hotel sits on an expansive campus full of shops and restaurants, all located in the northeast corner of the Music City. It’s a 10-mile trek to the bowl site, the Tennessee Titans’ LP Field.
“This hotel is spectacular,” coach Les Miles said during a brief interview with reporters.
No one is soaking in the atmosphere more than a group of seniors that includes Collins and Magee, a duo that has spent four years in Baton Rouge making each other look good.
Their entrance into the Opryland hotel was one of significance: It was their last bowl arrival ever.
“It’s my last time experiencing it as a player,” Collins said. “I’m trying to take it all in.”
In his beige suit and purple tie, Collins spoke in the hotel’s main atrium — a gray sky peering in from the glass ceiling above.
Magee chatted with reporters to Collins’ right, and defensive end Jermauria Rasco, also a senior, did the same a few more steps away. A line of LSU fans — some transplants from south Louisiana living in Nashville, and others who made the eight-hour drive from New Orleans — cheered and chanted their names.
It’s the first in a handful of settings the Tigers will experience in the Music City. The teams attended a welcome party on a riverboat, the Showboat General Jackson, on Saturday night. They dined on ribs, chicken wings, cornbread and potatoes from the world’s largest non-gaming paddleboat.
Players will watch the first half of the Titans’ game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday and attend a luncheon Monday. In the meantime, they’ll get to scour a city known for its street-side guitarists and swinging honkytonks.
Despite chilly game-day temperatures — expected highs in the mid-40s for the 2 p.m. kickoff — Nashville has been attractive enough to draw fans from both schools. Both programs have sold out their allotment of 8,000 tickets, and the bowl is nearing a sellout of 68,000-seat LP Field.
LSU can win for a seventh time in 10 bowl games under Miles, and the Tigers can reach the nine-win mark for the sixth consecutive season. More than that, the seniors can win a 42nd game in four years.
“Those guys need this win to go out with a bang,” quarterback Anthony Jennings said. “They’ve been through a lot of wins since they’ve been here, so going out on top would be big.”
“It’s our last time to play in front of these fans,” Magee said. “Our main focus is to go out and get a victory, be remembered, leave our mark.”
First, they’ll have to find their way around the 172-acre Opryland complex.
“When we came in,” Rasco said, “I was like, ‘When are we going to get to the room? This place is huge.’ ”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.