He’d probably like to call a scheduling audible right now, because the soft middle of Alabama’s hard-edged schedule isn’t doing Saban and Alabama any favors.
Saban could use a big game to reinforce the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s improvement on the field, and Alabama could use a big game to change the subject amid growing talk off-field issues.
That big game isn’t coming until No. 10 LSU visits Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 9.
Until then, Saban must continue to preach his religion of process, focus and steady improvement amid a run of games Alabama should win easily, and he’ll likely hear more questions like he heard during his Monday news conference.
The next-to-last thing Saban wants to address amid what could be another national-title run are his 10 player suspensions or dismissals since February, the latest being starting safety HaHa Clinton-Dix’s indefinite suspension amid reports he accepted, then repaid a loan from an assistant strength coach.
The last subject Saban wants to address involves questions about prominent Alabama supporter and trustee Paul W. Bryant Jr.’s connection with the program and unrelated business dealings.
Those subjects came up Monday, when Saban came to talk about the Tide’s return to SEC play Saturday at Kentucky.
The coach who considers “clutter” his mortal enemy must bat away plenty of it while trying to make his team’s noticeable improvements on the field stick for big games to come.
Since Sept. 14, when Alabama beat Texas A&M in one of this season’s most compelling games, Saban has had to motivate his team though yawner games against Colorado State and Georgia State.
Even then-No. 21 Ole Miss turned into a yawner. Alabama won 25-0, and Ole Miss went on to lose a week later, at Auburn, confirming that the Rebels were mildly overrated.
The next three weeks will see Alabama play Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee. They’re all SEC opponents, but none are ranked, and Alabama will be heavily favored in all three games.
LSU can’t get here soon enough, but the Tigers won’t get here for a month. Meanwhile, Saban wants to keep the Tide on an improvement course.
Since a mediocre showing in a 31-6 victory over Colorado State on Sept. 21, Alabama has played something closer to the dominant football its fans have come to expect during the current run of three national titles in four years.
The defense has given up three points in two weeks and hasn’t given up a touchdown since Heisman Trophy quarterback Johnny Manziel helped Texas A&M put six of them on the Tide.
On offense, quarterback AJ McCarron and backup Blake Sims combined to complete 29 of 34 passes against Georgia State on Saturday. The Tide scored all 45 of its points by the six-minute mark of the third quarter, mounting the kind of showing expected of Saban-led Alabama against a schedule-filler opponent.
But how can we be certain about the Tide’s progress until it plays another opponent that at least gets votes in a major poll?
How to shout down questions about off-field stories without a big game to change the subject, like the Texas A&M game stole the yahoo from Yahoo Sports?
Let us count the days until LSU gets here. Until then, how about those Braves?
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.