— TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama players don't even have to leave their couches to be one of the big winners in college football's national championship sweepstakes.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) has benefited the past two years from a pair of late-season upsets by other teams, proving that patience is sometimes as important as perfection.
Alabama jumped right back into win-and-in mode with Saturday night's losses by Oregon and Kansas State.
Last year, the one-loss Tide got a reprieve with Iowa State stunning Oklahoma State and Oregon toppling Stanford.
"It's college football," Tide safety Robert Lester said. "Just like last year, crazy things are going to happen. Crazy things are going to happen next year. The only thing we need to worry about right now is to play our football and not worry about what's going on outside Alabama and handle it the way we need to handle it."
What's going on inside Alabama is that rival Auburn (3-8, 0-7) visits Saturday for the Iron Bowl.
With a win, the Tide would play No. 3 Georgia for the SEC title and a chance at a second straight national championship. Alabama, which spent most of the season ranked No. 1, only needed a week to move back to the front of the line along with top-ranked Notre Dame.
The Tide was coming off a 29-24 loss to No. 9 Texas A&M. Last season, Alabama earned a rematch after losing to LSU partly thanks to the Cowboys and Cardinal finally losing.
Still, coach Nick Saban said he is focused only on the state title, a prize that's still pretty substantial in this heated rivalry.
"I just want to make everybody understands here that we're not in any conversations about anything other than the game that we're playing," Saban said Monday. "Unless we win the next game, we don't have another game. We're trying to work our way into a conversation by how we play. We're not trying to hold a position. We're trying to create one by what we do and how we play.