Alabama not looking ahead with Mocs next up

Alabama senior inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said Monday that "We're going to work on us" as the Crimson Tide prepare this week to host UTC.

TIDE, TAKE THREE

1. Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts had a passer rating of 184.72 in Saturday’s 51-3 win over Mississippi State and nearly averaged a first down (9.3 yards per play) every time he touched the ball.2. The Crimson Tide are 12-0 all-time against UTC, winning by an average score of 38-6.3. Alabama’s closest win over an FBS team under coach Nick Saban was 45-21 over Georgia Southern in 2011.

Alabama is playing a Championship Subdivision program for an eighth consecutive football season, but that shouldn't be confused for the Crimson Tide taking this week off.

Not after last Saturday.

The Crimson Tide have strengthened their grip as the top college football team in the country following a rash of upsets that claimed the previously undefeated trio of Clemson, Michigan and Washington. Alabama is the last undefeated program in the Power Five conferences, and the Tide will look to turn 10-0 into 11-0 this Saturday night when they host the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"We're going to keep the same mindset," Tide junior inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said Monday in a news conference. "We're going to work on us. Chattanooga is a top-ranked team in their division, so you've got to respect that."

This is not only the eighth straight year Alabama has faced an FCS program but the eighth straight time preceding the annual Iron Bowl showdown against Auburn. This year's Iron Bowl was headed for winner-take-all sweepstakes in the Southeastern Conference's Western Division until the Tigers were upset 13-7 by longtime East rival Georgia last weekend.

Alabama became assured of a third consecutive trip to the SEC title game with Auburn's loss, but coach Nick Saban was quick to warn his team about getting complacent, evoking the "Shawshank Redemption" line of "You're either busy living or you're busy dying."

"We're either going to get better, or we're going to get worse," Saban said. "We're probably not going to stay the same, so we need each unit on the team and each individual on the team to take ownership of the things they need to do to improve.

"Chattanooga is a well-coached team. Russ (Huesman) has done a really good job there. They do a really good job on offense with the quarterback-run stuff and the play-action game, and they really play hard on defense and special teams."

Alabama and UTC have met 12 times since first colliding in 1908 and twice with Saban and Huesman leading the programs. The Crimson Tide won 45-0 in 2009 and 49-0 in 2013, but Saban isn't entering this week looking to compile excessive points to impress voters or playoff committee members.

"I don't think that beating another team by an embarrassing score really should be something from a sportsmanship standpoint or a common respect standpoint for the other team that should be a part of the game," Saban said.

Not optimistic

Saban is not hopeful of having senior right guard Alphonse Taylor back this year. The 6-foot-5, 345-pounder from Mobile suffered a concussion in the Oct. 8 win at Arkansas.

"I'm not assuming that he will come back," Saban said. "It would be a bonus if he did. I don't think he will based on the amount of time that we've had. It's something that we're still evaluating, but it's not something we're counting on."

Sophomore Lester Cotton started the next three games at right guard for the Tide, but senior Korren Kirven got the nod against Mississippi State.

Tide tidbits

Next week's Iron Bowl from Tuscaloosa will have a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on CBS.... Sophomore tailback Bo Scarbrough is questionable for this week's game due to the sprained knee he sustained in the win at LSU.... Senior tight end O.J. Howard was named Monday among the eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award. Howard has 29 receptions for 352 yards this season, including at least one catch in every game, and his blocking has helped enable the Tide rush for 258.1 yards per game.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.