TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Nick Saban didn't use the term "rat poison" this time but he still wants Alabama players to ignore the hype surrounding them after three straight blowout wins.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) has won its first three games by a collective 170-28 score heading into Saturday's visit from No. 22 Texas A&M (2-1, 0-0).
That includes a 62-7, come-from-behind win after Mississippi scored on the first play to create the most adversity the Tide has faced on the field. It lasted less time than one of Saban's famed rants.
The Aggies are likely the best team Alabama has faced, but the Tide is still favored by 26 points. After a 27-19 win over Texas A&M two years ago, Saban said the steady diet of hype and praise heaped on his players by the media was "like rat poison."
On Monday, he talked about maintaining "a standard of excellence" whatever outsiders are saying.
"It's like climbing a mountain," Saban said. "The higher you go, the more challenging it gets and the greater the focus needs to be and the more treacherous it can be.
"This is the best team we've played so far, so hopefully we'll be able to continue to improve and have the right focus. So I guess in a different way, trying to be really diplomatic, I'm sort of saying the same thing."
Diplomacy aside, the first three games weren't competitive enough to keep the second-teamers in throughout much less the starters.
The greatest risk for rat poison might be the scores themselves, not the outside buzz.
No Alabama team has put up 50 three times in a row since 1945.
Now, the key is staying grounded with presumably much tougher challenges ahead, including the Aggies plus road games against No. 6 LSU and No. 14 Mississippi State and a visit from No. 9 Auburn.
That's where Saban comes in, reminding his players that "the standard of excellence cannot be affected by outside voices in terms of your preparation, your intensity, the level of focus you need to have."
Tailback Damien Harris, who has just 24 carries thanks to the lopsided games, says it's "not very hard" to avoid getting overconfident.
"I guess because we know that at the end of the day, whatever team we're playing is going to give us their best game," Harris said. "It's not going to do us any good believing how good everybody says we are or buying into the media because that's the quickest way to get disappointed."
In other words, listen to Saban, not the outside world. Or the rat poison.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs says the coach might be tougher on the team after wins than after losses and always finds things they can do better.
Diggs does think this Alabama team is doing a good job so far of staying levelheaded.
"We can't get complacent with ourselves," he said. "You always got to want more, want to do better. This team does a great job of that. We always think about one game at a time, 1-0. One game at a time, one game a time."
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