In the days before Alabama hosted Tennessee this year in the renewal of their yearly rivalry series, reporters in Tuscaloosa heard a tune blaring from the Bama locker room.
It was Tennessee’s fight song, “Rocky Top” — a motivating tactic coach Nick Saban used to fire up the Crimson Tide for an eventual 45-7 win.
Don’t expect that at LSU this week.
“We're going to play crowd noise,” coach Ed Orgeron said, “but I won’t play ‘Rocky Top.’ We'll get tired of hearing ‘Rocky Top’ all week.’”
The 21st-ranked Tigers (7-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) will hear plenty of it Saturday night during the clash with Tennessee (4-6, 0-6) at Neyland Stadium. They’ll get a dose of chilly temperatures, too.
The forecast in Knoxville calls for lows in the 30s and a 50 percent chance of rain that night. This trip is an unusual one. It’s the latest date for an LSU road game against a current SEC East team since the Tigers tied Florida, 3-3, on Nov. 25, 1972.
“When we step on the field, I’m probably going to be the only player without tights on and long sleeve shirts,” said linebacker Devin White, a native of north Louisiana. “I don’t even feel the weather. Five degrees, negative 1, it’s the same me.”
But what about “Rocky Top”?
Orgeron spent the 2009 season as UT’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, listening to that tune played dozens of times a game by the Volunteers marching band.
According to The Tennessean, it is band tradition for a senior trombone player to keep track of how often the marching band plays “Rocky Top” each season. During the 2016 season, the report said, the Pride of the Southland Band played it 438 times — an average of 34 renditions of “Rocky Top"” per game day.
“What is ‘Rocky Top’? That a song?” joked center Will Clapp earlier this week during interviews.
LSU has won its last two trips to Neyland Stadium in 2006 (28-24) and 2011 (38-7) and has claimed victories in the last four games of the series. The weather and the fight song won’t bog this group down, players say — especially the weather.
Quarterback Danny Etling, an Indiana native, is told of the Indiana-like temperatures awaiting the Tigers. He smiled.
“It would be snowing if it was Indiana weather,” he said.