It's easier than ever for Alabama coach Nick Saban to dismiss a midseason No. 1 ranking.
The Crimson Tide (6-0) vaulted to the top after an open date when No. 2 Notre Dame knocked off Clemson, which was playing without quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Even though Alabama's remaining regular season schedule doesn't seem particularly daunting, it's still the season of COVID-19 with top teams like No. 3 Ohio State just getting started.
And teams never know when a key player — like Lawrence — or coach will test positive or have to be quarantined for close contact with someone who has tested positive. Staffs don't even know when games will have to be canceled or postponed.
Saban said being No. 1 in November is “even more meaningless this year than ever before.”
“It means nothing at all right now,” Saban said Monday. "And I think especially in this year, because it’s very, very difficult even at this point in the season, to know who is really established as the most dangerous teams in the country on a consistent basis.
“We have conferences that have played one game, conferences that have played three games, conferences that have played more games than we’ve played. So I think it’s very, very difficult to be able to determine that.”
Alabama visits LSU (2-3), the struggling defending national champs, on Saturday. The four remaining opponents are a combined 11-12, and only No. 24 Auburn (4-2) has a winning record.
LSU is dealing with a COVID outbreak and won't be at full-strength — if the game is even played. Coach Ed Orgeron said the situation has made it difficult to know who won't be available for the game or whether it might need to be postponed, like Auburn-Mississippi State was on Monday.
LSU snapped an eight-game losing streak to Alabama last season, winning 46-41. Now, the Tigers will be looking to play the spoiler if they take the field.
And the Tide will be looking to stay on task, No. 1 ranking or not.
“It’s great to be considered the top team, but none of it matters,” quarterback Mac Jones said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re ranked 25th or first, you have to go out there and control your own destiny by winning every game.
"If we can just try to win every game we’ll continue to go throughout the season and get a chance to play more games.”
And Saban, as always, remains on guard against complacency or overconfidence. This is familiar territory for Alabama; the ascent to No. 1 Sunday marked the record 13th consecutive year that the Tide has spent at least one week atop the poll.
"I've always said this ... complacency creates a blatant disregard for doing what’s right,” Saban said. “So you know, that’s something that our players are going to have to show maturity and understanding that it’s not where you are right now. It’s where you finish that counts.”
Making it to the finish this season counts as much as anything.
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