Alabama sails into open date but must replace safety Jackson
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Nick Saban wants his Alabama players to take a little break after a rugged stretch of games, so long as they don't get too comfortable.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide polished off a third straight ranked opponent Saturday with a 33-14 victory over No. 9 Texas A&M in the defending national champions' second Top 10 matchup in a row.
The Tide (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) still have some tests ahead, but that was the stretch that seemed most likely to induce a stumble.
''I want the players to get some rest, relax and get healthy, but we can't be relieved,'' Saban said after the game. ''We can't be relieved that we won this game. It's a big difference in resting, relaxing and working to improve, and being relieved.
''We've got lots of games against a lot of good teams coming up when we start back playing again that can have a tremendous impact on what kind of season that we have.''
Now the team gets an extra week to recuperate before visiting No. 19 LSU on Nov. 5. The regular-season finale against No. 15 Auburn also represents a potential challenge.
Alabama's most pressing task now is to figure out how to replace injured safety Eddie Jackson. Saban said Jackson is out for the season with a fractured leg suffered on a fourth-quarter punt return against the Aggies, who came in as the only other SEC team without a loss.
Jackson was a playmaker who already had returned two punts and an interception for touchdowns. The senior's backup is Hootie Jones, who has 16 tackles and three pass breakups.
''We all kind of took leadership roles in the secondary,'' cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick said. ''But Eddie was the one who took over, so now it's our turn to step up.''
It was a tough blow at the end of a three-game stretch that Alabama navigated fairly easily, including road wins over Arkansas (49-30) and Tennessee (49-10).
Otherwise, the Tide emerged unscathed as the SEC's lone unbeaten team while receiving all but one first-place vote in The Associated Press rankings .
Texas A&M did challenge Alabama for nearly 45 minutes and even led midway through the third quarter, the deepest the Tide has trailed all season. Then Jalen Hurts hit Calvin Ridley for a 4-yard touchdown and defensive end Jonathan Allen scored on a 30-yard fumble return to grab control of the game.
It was the 12th touchdown Alabama has scored on either special teams or defense. That matches the number of TDs allowed by the Tide's defense so far.
Hurts is also directing an offense that leads the SEC and ranks seventh nationally in scoring, averaging 43.9 points per game.
Alabama held Texas A&M and the league's top rushing attack to 114 yards and no touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Trevor Knight was sacked five times while Trayveon Williams gained only 23 yards on nine carries after coming in leading the SEC in rushing yards per game.
But `Bama doesn't sound ''relieved'' to make it this far with a perfect record.
''We just know we had a lot of plays left out there to make,'' tight end O.J. Howard said. ''And we know there's a high standard for us and everybody's not really satisfied with this and there's a long season to go and we've just got to get better.''
AP college football web site: www.collegefootball.ap.org