TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama's Nick Saban doesn't want his players to be in a celebratory mood this week. It's too soon for relief, too.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide's coach prefers them to focus on what it felt like to physically dominate in the second half against No. 18 LSU and turn a tight game into a 38-17 win.
That is how he wants Alabama to play.
"You cannot take things for granted," Saban said Monday. "There can't be any kind of relief syndrome that, 'We got by that game.' I think the most important thing — and I think this last game sort of showed that — the team we want to be is the team we were in the second half, an aggressive team that's trying to control the line of scrimmage. Not a team playing with a lot of anxiety that's worried about making mistakes and errors. We made a lot of mental errors in the first half of the game.
"You've got to be aggressive, and you've got to play to win. You can't play to keep from getting beat."
And you can't let the hangover from a big win help get you beat the next week.
Alabama (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) started horribly against Texas A&M following a last-minute victory over the Tigers last season and suffered their only loss. Now, the Tide visits Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4) trying to keep from being afflicted by that "relief syndrome."
Saban reminded his players of what happened post-LSU last season in the locker room. He also reiterated his 24-hour celebration rule, which gives players a day to savor the win before moving on.
Receiver Kevin Norwood said the Tide just wants to keep it going now that one more major hurdle is cleared. He concedes that some of the tension is eased now that the LSU game is out of the way.
"I think everybody's just more, I guess, relaxed after that game," Norwood said. "But at the same time, everybody knows that we must continue to keep this momentum going so we can build for the next game and the next game and the next game after that. I don't think anybody's just relieved. I don't think anybody's satisfied. Everybody's still hungry, everybody wants to go out and compete."
Saban said after the game Alabama finished with its best half of the season against LSU. The Tide outgained LSU 219-67 after halftime and held the Tigers to minus-9 yards in the fourth quarter while scoring two touchdowns.
The result was a seventh-consecutive win by 20-plus points.
Now, Alabama is a 25-point favorite over the Bulldogs, and then they host FCS team Chattanooga before traveling to No. 7 Auburn in the biggest remaining regular season challenge.
If the Tide can win those three and the Southeastern Conference title game, a shot at a third consecutive national title awaits.
That's the kind of look-ahead scenario Alabama has been pretty good at avoiding under Saban. Looking back isn't much better.
"We're not going to get caught up in this one win," quarterback AJ McCarron said. "It happened to us last year, so we'll be ready to go."
Saban almost certainly didn't break his own 24-hour celebration rule, but for a public that sees him scowling more often than smiling, he was downright giddy in the aftermath of this one. His joyful leap into McCarron's arms has gotten thousands of views on YouTube and social media.
"It was pretty funny," Norwood said. "I've never seen coach that excited. It was like, 'Wow, that man's excited.'"
McCarron said that was the second time they'd done that. The first was after beating LSU in the national championship game in January 2012.
"I was just hoping I'd catch him," McCarron said.
Linebacker Trey DePriest said he hasn't seen the embrace but said Saban was focused again by the time he addressed the team, reminding them of last year's Texas A&M game.
"Same old coach," DePriest said.