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Saban, No. 4 Alabama focused on 'how we complete the season'

(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

By JOHN ZENOR

AP Sports Writer

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Alabama has been here before, looking to salvage damaged playoff hopes after a competitive loss to No. 1 LSU.

The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide is hoping for another national championship reprieve following Saturday's 46-41 loss to the Tigers . This team may not even need the kind of stunning help `Bama received in 2011, when a 5-4 Iowa State team upset No. 2 Oklahoma State 37-31 in double overtime.

Alabama will need some help, but has to take of its own business first - which starts with road game at Mississippi State on Saturday. And on Monday, that's all coach Nick Saban stressed that he is focusing on.

"Look, the No. 1 thing that I'm concerned about, just so everybody gets it, is how we complete the season," Saban said Monday. "I don't want to talk about anything other than the game that we have this week. We're not making any predictions or whatever."

He may not, but others are more than willing to talk about 2011.

The Tide went on to beat LSU in a BCS title game rematch, finishing second in the Southeastern Conference Western Division and first in the nation.

Saban did point out that Alabama does have "kind of a legacy" where only one team over the last 12 seasons has lost multiple regular-season games. That was back in 2010, when the Tide finished 10-3 before winning two straight national titles.

"I'd like for this team to be able to continue that, and we certainly want to focus on all the things that we need to do to try to be able to get that done," Saban said.

Alabama (9-1, 5-1 SEC) only dropped two spots in The Associated Press poll. The Tide will have to wait until Tuesday evening to see where it lands in the College Football Playoff rankings , after entering the LSU game third.

After Mississippi State, Alabama hosts FCS Western Carolina and visits No. 12 Auburn. A playoff berth might even be more likely than an SEC West title since the Tide would have to win out while LSU lost two of three to Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

"Right now, we're not worrying about the playoffs or anything, we're worrying about Mississippi State," Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith said. "We're going into this game correcting the things that we didn't do well last game and getting ready for them."

The LSU game - especially the first half - left plenty to work on. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who went on to pass for 418 yards and four touchdowns, had a big interception and fumble and Alabama also had a botched punt. Saban said the defense missed 25 tackles.

Saban said Tagovailoa, who was recovering from a high ankle sprain, wouldn't practice Monday. The coach said Tagovailoa didn't "hurt himself in any way, shape or form" during the game.

Alabama managed to wipe out most of the 33-13 halftime deficit, three times pulling to within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. But the Tide was unable to stop an LSU offense led by quarterback Joe Burrow and tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire .

Afterward, Saban did talk indirectly about 2011, using the same message he has summoned in the past: not wanting the Tide "to waste a failure."

"We don't fully have control of our own destiny, but if we finish the season the right way, we can see where it takes us," Saban said after the game. "We've been in this situation before."

That includes 2017, when the Tide's only loss came to Auburn in the regular-season finale. Alabama still got a playoff bid - and has every year since the system's advent starting with the 2014 season - and beat Georgia in the national championship game.

"We're not taking that as a motivation factor," Tide cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. said. "We understand what we need to do for the rest of the season and establish our identity for the rest of the season. We just have to see where that takes us."

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Updated November 11, 2019

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