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Alabama not sick, Saban still wants team to get well

The Crimson Tide spent Saturday recording its most decisive Southeastern Conference road win since 1989, then the ensuing 24 hours basking in the glow of the 49-14 win over Arkansas.

But before the players exited Razorback Stadium, they received a discerning warning from their coach.

"You really don't have to be sick to get better," Nick Saban said.

The ease with which the Tide dispatched Arkansas was stunning. Tough for a coach to complain about complete domination.

But Saban doesn't settle for gazing lovingly at the delicious chocolate exterior to this Cadbury egg. He'd rather poke at the shell, expose the inside, and try to figure out why it's a little too gooey to eat.

Saturday, No. 3 Georgia awaits. The difficulty increases exponentially.

"Just because we won the game," Saban said, "we shouldn't look at it as an opportunity not to learn and grow. We made a lot of mistakes."

He'll target nitpicky, specific advancements, the kind that win close games.

Not just because ESPN's College GameDay will be in Athens, Ga. Not just because the Bulldogs will be sporting those scary black jerseys that helped them throttle Auburn last year.

But because Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford may not throw it to Alabama's defensive backs as many times as Arkansas' Casey Dick did. Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran may not forgo his gap as Arkansas safety Rashaad Johnson did in allowing Glen Coffee's 87-yard run.

Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno may not tumble after an arm tackle.

The Bulldogs and the Razorbacks are both in the SEC. But they are not in the same league. Not this year.

"We've got work to do before we play Georgia," lineman Mike Johnson said.

It is an opportunity, as well.

"Couldn't ask for a better situation," Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson said. "They are the team to beat in the SEC right now. And it's at their place. Looking forward to it."

No. 8 Alabama has not taken part in a Top 10 matchup since 2005. Georgia is taking it just as seriously, considering Bulldogs coach Mark Richt called for a blackout of his team and of Sanford Stadium.

"Every Bulldog club event I went to, they were asking when it was going to be," said Richt, about wearing black jerseys. "They were writing letters trying to say what game it should be. You wouldn't think it was a big deal, but it was."

Nothing against UA's blowout of the Hogs. But to combat those black jerseys - oh, and Georgia's immense talent and depth - several facets of its game must improve.

Arkansas receivers gained 217 yards, with a solid portion of those coming after contact. " I think we could've tackled better," safety Justin Woodall said.

And with the multiples that coach Bobby Petrino displayed, there was confusion on UA's defense.

"We blew some assignments," Woodall said.

The Tide couldn't pressure as much as it wanted because it kept botching the blitzes.

Defending screens were an issue, as was fighting off inside traps on running plays. Defensive players didn't always follow the tight end around.

"They did some things that were a little bit different," Saban said, "and we didn't respond very well."

Dependable return man Javier Arenas actually fumbled a punt.

"Next week, I've got to go out and catch every ball," Arenas said. "We can't feel comfortable. We've still got a ways to go to reach that 100 percent level."

The passing game has been inconsistent, thriving against Clemson and Western Kentucky but struggling against Tulane and Arkansas. Playing only 20 snaps in the first half didn't help that, thanks to big plays and turnovers by the Tide's defense.

Last Saturday, Saban said, "we overcame ourselves." And this Saturday?

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