TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama made a statement with its 41-14 thrashing of Michigan on Saturday.
Those that predicted a championship hangover for the Crimson Tide were shown otherwise as UA dominated all phases of the game, turning back Big Blue's hopes of an upset before the third commercial break.
The chorus of praise rung out from Arlington, Texas, to both coasts -- and Tuesday, Alabama claimed the top spot in the AP poll. With 45 first-place votes this week, the Crimson Tide's gain of 17 first-place votes since the preseason poll eclipsed the week's combined total for USC (11) and SEC rival LSU (four).
Too bad the Dixie hymn hadn't made it to Nick Saban's ears. The gruff coach had stepped to the podium on Monday ready to rebuke all claims that Alabama is back on top of college football.
"Everyone thought we were too young, too inexperienced, couldn't handle success," Saban said. "Everybody was saying those things about our team. Now, people are saying something different.
"But my question is, what's different? Nothing."
The Crimson Tide's celebratory parade apparently never made it home to Tuscaloosa. It likely never made it to the home locker room in Cowboys Stadium.
"We're still inexperienced, we still have things to work on," Saban said. "It's going to be all about the maturity the team has to be able to focus on what they need to do to correct the deficits we have."
The stat line will tell one story about Alabama's win over Michigan, the coach's analysis quite another. Had Denard Robinson executed better, the score might not have been so lopsided. Missed opportunities plagued the Wolverines, chances Saban would rather not see occur in the first place.
"There's not one person that's responsible," Saban said, noting that the defensive backs and pass-rushers could have played better. "Had we played better as a whole, probably would not have had the same results."
Williams suffered a concussion and did not play for most of the second half. DePriest injured his ankle. The most problematic injury is Ragland's. The linebacker and special teams contributor left the field on crutches and Saban questioned whether he'd be able to suit up against Western Kentucky.
The question of ailments doesn't stop there. Saban said that if running back Eddie Lacy had not been able to play against Michigan, it would have been freshman T.J. Yeldon starting. Given Lacy's history of injuries -- he had turf toe last season and missed the spring recovering from surgery -- Saban is looking for a team effort at tailback.
"Hopefully we'll get Eddie more and more healthy," Saban said. "He and T.J. can continue to maybe develop into a really good tandem with some other guys being able to contribute."
Injuries aside, the Crimson Tide feel there's plenty of room for improvement. Linebacker C.J. Mosley was pleased with the attitude of the team, but said the execution was lacking.
"Overall, our effort and our toughness was great," Mosley said. "But a couple of plays we gave up, some things we messed up as far as lining up and getting the right call. So we've got to come in today and work on those mistakes."
Center Barrett Jones echoed Mosley's sentiments. The offensive line led the way for 234 yards rushing and yet he was disappointed with a poor second half where he says the team "let off the gas."
"The execution was average," Jones said. "We made a lot of mistakes and, honestly, we left a lot of points out there."
Even though the Tide face an unranked opponent in Western Kentucky this weekend, don't expect Saban to let off the gas. He didn't like hearing how good Alabama is following Saturday's game, and he certainly isn't ready to hear how easy things will be this weekend.
"I know that you all don't think they're probably very good but they've won eight out of their last nine games," Saban said of WKU. "… This game is about us playing as well as we can play and improving as much as we can improve."