NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A 90-minute bus ride past the cypress swamps along Interstate 10 isn't the most glamorous way for a team full of Louisiana natives to get to thee biggest bowl game of all.
Nobody from LSU was complaining.
``It's a good feeling knowing you're a bus ride away from the national championship game,'' said LSU running back Jacob Hester, who's from Shreveport. ``New Orleans is a great city. It's always one of my favorite cities to come to.''
LSU coach Les Miles even wore a pinstriped suit for a Wednesday evening press conference after his team had arrived. That was a stark contrast to an LSU sweatshirt and baseball cap, which was what he wore when the Tigers got off the bus in New Orleans last year for the Sugar Bowl.
Hester said he's rarely seen his coach looking so dapper, but found it fitting on this day.
``Our motto's kind of been that this is a business trip,'' Hester said of the BCS title game matchup with Ohio State, Monday, in the Superdome. ``Everybody wants to be sharp. This is a once in a lifetime thing for a lot of people.''
Just over a month ago, LSU players wondered if a triple-overtime loss to Arkansas had blown their opportunity to get here. It was their second loss, and no two-loss team had ever played for a national title.
The Tigers (11-2) rallied to beat Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference title game on Dec. 1 and then listened in amazement as the pilot on their flight back to Baton Rouge announced that then-No. 1 Missouri and then-No. 2 West Virginia had both lost that night.
Now here they are, five days away from a showdown with top-ranked Ohio State (11-1)
``This football team certainly is thrilled to be back in New Orleans,'' said Miles, who coached LSU to a 41-14 romp over Notre Dame in last year's Sugar Bowl. ``We have a great affinity for the city. We understand how important it is to our school and certainly to our state. Certainly we've had some wonderful experiences here.''
Many wonder if playing in New Orleans gives the Tigers a de facto home field advantage.
The team certainly got a rousing welcome from people wearing purple and hold at LSU's downtown hotel. The welcoming party gave plastic Mardi Gras bead necklaces to the players as they walked by.
``If they would go away we probably wouldn't have that opportunity to see them,'' said David Teachworth, who drove downtown from his suburban home in Belle Chasse with his 9-year-old son Jared. ``It's just very convenient for the fans...''
Then there's the convenience factor for the team.
There was so little travel in the Tigers' ``travel day'' that they held a full-fledged practice at their on-campus fields
That's a big difference from what Ohio State dealt with. Buckeyes players were permitted to take different flights and some ended up delayed by weather up north, leading Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel to quip, ``Roll call is when they get here.''
LSU arrived together and on time, looking forward to a week of home cooking.
Several LSU players come from south Louisiana and more than a dozen grew up in New Orleans and its immediate suburbs.
``I like playing in New Orleans where I'm from, in front of family and friends,'' LSU safety Craig Steltz said. ``It's more than you could ever ask for.''

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