Alabama mindset: One at a time
"I feel like if you don't think that way, you're kind of irrelevant a little to the team," McCarron said. "Everybody needs to have the same mindset. We can't worry about what everybody thinks, what everybody's predicting. Just go out and play the game and take one play at a time, one game at a time and we'll be all right."
In short, it's all about Saturday's game against Virginia Tech. In short, ignore what coach Nick Saban puts under the "external factors" umbrella.
But hard as the coaches and players try to ignore it, the Tide are aiming to make history. Major college football has had repeat national champs 10 times since the first AP poll in 1936. None, however, has made it three in a row and none has gone wire-to-wire at No. 1 since USC in 2004.
Alabama has the expectations born of winning 49 games and three national titles the last four seasons. The exception was a 2010 team that opened at No. 1 and lost three times that season.
"It's an example, but we've been preaching that for years now," McCarron said. "We can't worry about it. That was a different team then and it's a different team now. Got different players and different mindsets among the team as individuals. We've got to focus on our goal this year, our purpose to be out there. You don't really win the game on Saturday. You win it every day before that."
Once again, Alabama, which went 13-1 in 2012, has a chance to make a statement early. The Tide have played a ranked team from a BCS conference other than the SEC in the first or second game each of the past five seasons and won all of them, including a 41-14 rout of No. 8 Michigan last year in Arlington, Texas.
The Hokies aren't ranked, but Saban calls them a "good all-around team."
This time the Tide have back-to-back potential statement games, counting the Sept. 14 visit to No. 7 Texas A&M after an open date. Last season's 29-24 loss to the Aggies marked Alabama's only blemish.
"There's no external factors that matter at all to any player on our team," Saban said. "It's all about how they perform in this game. It's not what they did last year, it's not about the girlfriend, it's not about anything but playing this game. None of it means anything unless you make it mean something."
Virginia Tech will be looking for a bounce-back year after its nation-best streak of eight 10-win seasons was snapped in 2012. The Hokies needed to win their last two games just to qualify for the postseason and did, then went on to defeat Rutgers 13-10 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
- Big 12 chief rips NCAA, says 'cheating pays'
- Briles on Fisher's critique: Worry about ACC
- FSU coach explains why Winston unpunished
- Top WR picks Auburn over USC, Tide, OSU
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2013 COLLEGE FOOTBALL KICKOFF
It's almost that time again, and the BCS's final season looks to go out with a bang. Preview »