Forget that Alabama is the defending national champion and ranked No. 1 in the country.
Forget that the Crimson Tide is 2-0 after a solid 24-3 win over Penn State despite playing its first two games without injured Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.
And forget that the Tide will see to it that Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium is filled with red on Saturday, with Alabama fans everywhere expecting an easy victory over the Blue Devils (1-1, 0-1 ACC).
The oddsmakers have.
They've installed Alabama as a 23-point favorite.
All of that means little to Alabama coach Nick Saban - at least publicly. At his weekly news conference Monday, he said all the right things about Duke, and his tone of voice carried just the right tinge of wariness in discussing the game.
"Everybody is ready for us," Saban said. "It's our first road game. The challenge for our team is to focus and play the kind of football we want to play, and on a consistent basis, all the time. Everybody needs to elevate their games."
Duke's offense, Saban said, is explosive. Blue Devils quarterback Sean Renfree, he said, has been very effective.
Just look at what they did against Wake Forest last week, he said.
"They scored 48 points on a team that has been ranked in the top 20 [defensively] the last five years," he said. "They're a very dangerous team because of their ability to throw the ball and score points."
Saban failed to mention the 54 points that Wake Forest hung on Duke's defense. (Instead, he said the Blue Devils are "capable of being good" defensively.) He did praise Duke's special teams, coached by former Alabama assistant Ron Middleton.
The Blue Devils will have to be more than capable on defense against the Tide. Alabama had some offensive misfires against Penn State, but Trent Richardson rushed for 144 yards, and quarterback Greg McElroy threw for 229 yards and two scores.
Saban said the Tide made some mental mistakes defensively but were able to force red-zone turnovers to stymie the Nittany Lions. There also were a few offensive penalties, he said, that hurt and can be the difference in close games.
"We need more consistency," he said. "Everybody needs to elevate their games so we can improve."
Ingram missed the first two games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery for a knee injury he suffered late in preseason camp. Saban said Ingram would have limited repetitions in practice this week and could share time with Richardson at tailback.
"We'll evaluate how much he plays relative to how much he can practice," Saban said.
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