University of Alabama

Other teams’ tumbles keep Alabama focused

Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, right, drags Mississippi State linebacker Dezmond Harris, center, and linebacker DeAndre Ward during a tackle Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, right, drags Mississippi State linebacker Dezmond Harris, center, and linebacker DeAndre Ward during a tackle Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Associated Press

Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn’t really need to give his players a talk about staying focused heading into this week’s game against FCS opponent Chattanooga.

The rest of college football already delivered the message.

Last week saw the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 teams in the College Football Rankings all fall, with Clemson, Michigan and Washington all suffering upsets Saturday night. The trio also ranked No. 2-4 in the Associated Press Top 25, marking the first time since 1985 that the AP No. 2-4 all fell on the same day.

“The message is when you win, you control your own destiny,” Saban said during his Monday news conference. “When you don’t, you allow someone else to determine what your fate’s going to be. We have all these teams that lost one game now. Somebody has to decide who gets to do what.

“If you put yourself in that situation, you let somebody else decide what your fate is. If you take care of your business and do things the way you need to do it, then maybe you can control your own destiny in the way you play.”

The situation spoke volumes to Alabama players, many of whom watched the upsets following their 51-3 win against Mississippi State earlier in the day.

“It was crazy because now stuff is going to be out of whack,” Alabama receiver ArDarius Stewart said. “People thought it was just going to be like that for the rest of the season, and it threw the charts off a lot.”

Stewart said he took a nap after Alabama’s win and didn’t get to watch any of the games. When he finally heard of the upsets, the news served as a wake-up call in more ways than one.

“You know anything can happen,” Stewart said. “If a team comes out and plays their game right, you never know what could happen.”

Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said he was happy Alabama had an early kickoff Saturday so he could watch some of the games. Hamilton said he watches the games as more of a fan of the sport rather than picking a side. The junior linebacker said he likes to evaluate and learn from different defenses to see how they compare to Alabama.

Saturday’s lesson was clear: Anyone can be beaten.

“Coach Saban always preaches other teams have good players just like we do,” Hamilton said. “Every Saturday’s you’ve got to come out and execute.”

Saban used a quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption stating, “You get busy living, or you get busy dying,” to describe how he wants his players to approach practice this week. Despite being the only undefeated team in the CFP top 10, Saban said he his not satisfied with his team’s performance. That attitude has trickled down to his players who remain constantly focused on improvement despite their success.

“That’s something that we’re taking when we go out on the practice field,” Hamilton said. “When we hold each other accountable you never got to worry about anybody slacking.”

Despite a much-anticipated matchup against Auburn coming up next week in Bryant-Denny Stadium, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an Alabama player looking past this week’s opponent.

“We’re on Chattanooga right now,” Alabama offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman said. “We’ll talk about that next week.”

Instead, the Crimson Tide (10-0, 9-0 in the SEC) will continue to focus on what it can control, one game at a time. Control, after all, is what Alabama is after. Win the next game, and that’s something nobody can take away.

“That’s certainly much more the way we would like for it to be from our perspective,” Saban said. “We’ve got lots of tough games we have to play between now and then. We want to take it one game at a time and focus on improving.”

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