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 TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -Apparently, Alabama players got the message.
The Crimson Tide's coaches spent plenty of time in the preseason talking to them about being physical and tough becoming the football equivalent of the neighborhood bully.
``We're not going to let anybody do anything to us that we don't want them to,'' offensive lineman Mike Johnson said. ``Nobody is going to push us around.''
That mentality carried over into the season with a bullying defensive front, a pounding running game and the resulting dominant win over preseason No. 9 Clemson that sent the Crimson Tide soaring to No. 13 in the polls.
For all the things Alabama did right in that game - and it did enough to vault 11 spots in the rankings - it started with physical play that caught the attention of everyone from Georgia coach Mark Richt to the Tulane players who visit the Tide Saturday night.
``They're a hard-nosed team,'' Green Wave offensive tackle Troy Kropog said. ``They out-physicalled their opponent in that game tremendously and they played hard. They're aggressive and they play hard. They're the kind of team that poses the most problems because they play to the whistle.''
``It was impressive to see,'' center Michael Parenton said.
The results were impressive, too: Outrushing Clemson and its heralded backfield of James Davis and C.J. Spiller 239-0 and racking up three sacks without allowing any.
It was impressive enough that Johnson and 6-foot-5, 365-pound noseguard Terrence Cody claimed the Southeastern Conference's offensive and defensive lineman of the week honors.
Richt was on hand for the Tide's performance at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
``I just saw a team that had a mentality they were going to play physical, and they did it,'' said Richt, whose son Jon is a Clemson freshman. ``Clemson didn't have any answers on that day.''
Alabama's offensive line could be without its star against Tulane, playing in its opener. Left tackle Andre Smith is listed as doubtful after starting the first 27 games of his college career.
Johnson would move from guard to tackle, and sophomore David Ross would fill Johnson's spot. Even after Smith went down against Clemson, Alabama mounted a scoring drive that consumed nearly 9 minutes.
``We didn't miss a beat,'' Johnson said. ``We pushed the ball down the field with (Ross) in there. We drug out the clock in the fourth quarter with him in there.''
Tulane had Conference USA's top run defense last season but must replace starting linemen Avery Williams and Antonio Harris. 'Bama also has to prove it can keep it up after finishing eighth in the SEC in rushing offense last season.
``I think it's the identity that we've always tried to create, play physical, play with a lot of toughness, strike them, knock them back,'' Tide coach Nick Saban said. ``Be aggressive and relentless in your style of how you play and how you compete. I think we did a little better in this game. I think it goes back to the players kind of buying in and believing.''
The offensive line was already regarded as a strength of the team with four returning starters. The defensive front seven - linebackers and linemen - was more of a question mark.
Cody was a newcomer in the middle of the line and freshman Don'ta Hightower and converted safety Cory Reamer were making their first starts at linebacker.
The result? Reamer forced a fumble and Hightower recovered it.
``From the first play, we had guys getting in the backfield and disrupting everything they were trying to do,'' Reamer said.
Cody gave the Tide a massive presence inside, drawing multiple blockers and freeing teammates to make plays.
``I didn't see a play where they didn't double-team him, triple-team him on a couple of occasions,'' defensive end Lorenzo Washington said.
Like Johnson, Washington thinks the Tide approached the season with a different mentality than last year.
``We're attacking. Last year with a lot of teams, we weren't establishing our line of scrimmage,'' he said. ``We were letting them dictate what we do. This year our main focus is attacking the line of scrimmage and knocking them back so we control what they do.''

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