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Top-ranked Alabama hits soft spot in schedule

The SportsXchange

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Top-ranked Alabama's heavy lifting appears to be over until November. Of their four games this month, the Crimson Tide face no team higher in the Sagarin rankings than No. 49 Arkansas on Oct. 19.

They also take their swings at two other SEC pinatas -- Kentucky next week and Tennessee on Oct. 26. This Saturday, they step out of conference to face a first-year FBS program, 0-4 Georgia State.

Under no circumstances should this be a competitive game in the second half. It figures to be a forum for Alabama to use its reserves for a half, maybe more if its starters get business done early.

"There is nothing to be taken for granted in any team that you play," Tide coach Nick Saban said of the Panthers. "I think the best way to do that is focus on who you are, what you're doing, how you want to improve and how you want to play to be the best player you can be. That is certainly going to be our focus for this week."

Last week's 25-0 blanking of explosive Ole Miss tabled questions about the viability of Alabama's defense for a while. In fact, the Tide have allowed just two field goals since Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel plundered them for 42 points last month.

While it may not have the shutdown corner that it's had for most of Saban's six-plus seasons in Tuscaloosa, Alabama still has a front seven that can dominate any line of scrimmage. Ole Miss managed just 205 total yards.

For Saban, the biggest thing from that game was his team's willingness and ability to compete when Ole Miss got physical. That is the identity the Tide's recent national champions had and the identity this team must attain on a weekly basis.

"The question now is are we going to be able to build on this, continue to improve as a team and not be satisfied with where we are," Saban said, "so that we can improve and get better execution and improve consistency in things that we do and how we play."

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