TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — It's how Nick Saban approaches every game, one at a time, as the most important game because it's the next game.
Only the cliches ring a little truer for No. 1 Alabama leading up to Saturday's game with Auburn. Win, and the Crimson Tide regains state supremacy and keeps those national title hopes flourishing.
Lose, and that top ranking vanishes and the Tigers are No. 1 in the state for the seventh straight year.
"It's like having a one-game season," Saban said Monday. "It doesn't matter what you've done before this, or what's coming up next. It's all about this game. It's all about Alabama and Auburn. It's not about where you're ranked or what your record is or the BCS or any of that stuff. It's really about this game and this week."
Alabama (11-0, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) has the luxury of taking that approach with its comfortable perch atop the Bowl Championship Series standings and the national rankings.
Those other teams — specifically No. 4 Texas and No. 3 Oklahoma — can fret over the BCS standings and strain over the mental gymnastics it takes to figure out what gets them in the national championship game, or at least their own league title match.
The Tide's formula for a title shot seems much simpler, if hardly easy: Win the next two games over Auburn and No. 3 Florida for the SEC championship in Atlanta next weekend.
"We've just got to go take care of our business and everything will fall into place," Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson said. "Other teams have got to worry about other guys losing or winning or this and that. For us, it's just going out and doing what we've been doing."
The Tide has stayed above the fray with all those powerhouse Big 12 Conference teams pounding away at each other and Florida rising fast with a series of dominating victories.
Alabama has been No. 1 three weeks running and finds comfort in knowing it's unlikely to be in the same position as Auburn four years ago, when the Tigers were unbeaten and wound up the third wheel for the BCS title game between Southern California and Oklahoma.
"I guess that's the way you'd want it to be," Tide safety Rashad Johnson said. "You don't want anything else to be able to control your destiny except for you. That's pretty much what we have left for us. We just need to focus on it one week at a time and not get ahead of ourselves."
'Bama players had an open date last weekend to check out the competition's games and highlights. That includes Oklahoma's 65-21 drubbing over then No. 2 Texas Tech and Florida's 70-19 win over The Citadel.
An Alabama team built largely on defense and the running game — and the only clear national title contender without a Heisman Trophy candidate — is unlikely to put up such gaudy scores to catch the nation's eye. The Tide hasn't reached 40 points since September.
It might not be necessary at this point.
"We're not flashy," nose guard Terrence Cody said. "There's a lot of flashy teams out there. We just go out there and do what we do. We don't change up our gameplan. We may put up 30-40 (points). We just do our game."
Johnson said that's the way Saban wants it, and that he doesn't hammer at them with the magnitude of the game or the fact that Alabama has lost the past six Iron Bowls.
"He's the same week in and week out," he said. "He lets us know it's not about the other team. It's all about what we do and if we continue to do the things we've done all year, then we won't have much to worry about on Saturday."
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville entered the 2004 Iron Bowl tied at No. 2 with Oklahoma and nursing national title hopes. Count him among those who would believe a 13-0 SEC team belongs in the BCS title game.
"If you go undefeated in this league, you have accomplished a huge feat," Tuberville said. "The other conferences, I'm not putting them down, but in this league it's just so hard.
"They've improved. They've had their bad moments, but they've been able to overcome those. You can tell they're very focused on what they're doing. We'll get their best shot this week. We're not going to get any of that looking forward or any of that stuff. It's not going to be one of those games that they're going to walk out and think they're going to win the game."
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