No letdowns: Saban keeps Tide focused on task at hand

Nick Saban's Alabama team beat LSU last week but is still looking to improve heading into Starkville. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Nick Saban’s Alabama team beat LSU last week but is still looking to improve heading into Starkville. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Alabama’s Nick Saban is widely considered the top coach in college football.

It is hard to argue against that logic with four national championships to Saban’s credit – three of which have come in the last four years.

One of the more remarkable traits of Saban-coached teams have been their ability to focus following big games and not have letdowns.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide scored 21 unanswered points to close out a 38-17 win over LSU in Tuscaloosa last week.

But as important as that win was for the Tide’s hopes of a third straight national title, Saban quickly reminded his team that there is still plenty of work to be done.

“The players have to embrace the next challenge of what they need to do to play well,” Saban said. “You cannot take things for granted and there can’t be any kind of relief syndrome…This is certainly not the time to think we’ve gotten over this big game and we’re entitled to a little rest time this week. With every game you win, the next challenge becomes that much more important and a bigger game.”

Down the road

And Alabama’s next game is a short drive west down Highway 82 to Starkville to take on Mississippi State on Saturday at 6:45 p.m.

The Crimson Tide have claimed five-straight over the Bulldogs by a combined score of 155-34.

Saban is 10-1 all-time against MSU during his stints in Tuscaloosa and LSU. His only loss came during his first season at Alabama, 17-12 in Starkville against then Bulldog coach Sylvester Croom.

“It is always important to play well on the road,” Saban said. “Every place that we play is a difficult place to play and Starkville is no different.”

“Mississippi State, I think, has probably the best 4-5 team in the country,” Saban said. “They’ve lost five games to Top 20 teams and have played extremely well all year long. It’s a difficult preparation because they do a great job coaching their players.”

Saban is expecting a physical game from Mississippi State on both sides of the ball Saturday night.

“You have to look past the record,” Saban said. “This is a very good team offensively. They can run the ball. They keep the ball. Their time of possession is good. Defensively, they are in the top tier of the SEC. They are very well coached. Dan (Mullen) has done a great job there. They play hard, they are very physical, and they play with a lot of toughness.”

logan.lowery@journalinc.com