No. 2 ‘Bama happy to stand pat

Published 10:48 pm Monday, October 13, 2008

TUSCALOOSA – Nick Saban really couldn’t enjoy watching Texas and Oklahoma play, because he was too busy figuring out how he’d defend and counter what the teams were doing.

Don’t jump to any conclusions, though. No. 2 Alabama’s coach wasn’t preparing for a potential matchup in the national championship game that he more than anybody understands is a long way from happening. It’s just the way his mind works.

“It’s really hard for me to enjoy watching the game,” Saban said. “You look at it too much like a coach.”

And that’s the way his players are taking their current situation, too. Like their coach.

They had plenty of time on their open date to digest Texas-Oklahoma and LSU-Florida and Oklahoma State-Missouri, watching three Top 5 teams fall.

Two days later, the Crimson Tide players were brushing off the fact that Texas jumped from No. 5 instead of voters just bumping Alabama up to the top spot. The way that weekend went, standing pat wasn’t so bad.

“I knew Texas was going to jump us but it doesn’t matter,” quarterback John Parker Wilson said. “It matters at the end of the season. If we can stay No. 2 the rest of the season, it would be fine with me.”

The Tide (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) returns Saturday against Mississippi (3-3, 1-2), and Saban is hoping his team can steer clear of the upsets that have shaken up the top of the rankings in recent weeks.

He said part of avoiding that affliction is having the maturity to keep in mind the consequences of a lapse in focus. Staying near the top is tougher than it used to be.

“Twenty-five years ago, there used to be three or four really dominant teams and there were a lot of difference between those teams and the rest of the teams,” Saban said. “I don’t think that’s the case now. I think there’s a lot of parity. If you don’t bring your A-game, just about everybody you play can beat you.

“I think that’s evidenced every weekend in college football.”

Plus his team reached the midpoint of the season with a shaky 17-14 win over Kentucky that was the Tide’s first near slipup.

Several players said they started getting text messages, calls and even posts after Texas’s 35-25 victory over then-No. 1 Oklahoma about a possible ‘Bama rise. They also all said they blew off such talk.

“There’s a lot of that around here,” nose guard Terrence Cody said. “It’s funny to me. When I listen to that, I laugh.”

Others recite one of Saban’s messages.

“Like Coach Saban said, we’re 6-0 in the first half of the season,” defensive end Lorenzo Washington said. “This is the start of the second half of the season, so it’s like we’re 0-0.

“You can look at Oklahoma. I bet you a couple of people on their team were definitely looking past Texas, and look at what happened to them. You can’t look past anybody in any conference in college football today because you can be beat.”

Cornerback Javier Arenas thinks even the fans are getting the message to “forget about it and move on.”

Besides, Saban didn’t spend the open week patting his players on the back. He spent much of it working on his team’s blocking, tackling and other seemingly mundane details.

“We certainly tried to spend a lot of time on fundamentals,” he said. “In a day and age where a lot of people think it’s what you do not how you do it that determines whether you’re successful or not, we’re still old-fashioned in terms of how you do it is still pretty important. That was a big emphasis for us.”