TUSCALOOSA — Alabama appears to be losing ground in the court of public opinion after edging unheralded Ole Miss 24-20 on Saturday afternoon, but it’s a mixed blessing for head coach Nick Saban.

On the one hand, he im­proved to 7-0 for the first time in his coaching career and the Crimson Tide equaled the num­ber of wins it had last year as it seeks bigger postseason re­wards in 2008.

But the Tide clearly has a problem with putting away op­ponents. Alabama led Georgia 31-0, Kentucky 14-0 and Missis­sippi 24-3 at halftime in its last three games, only to be out­scored 61-13 in those contests in the second half, mustering just 10 points in the last 30 minutes of the first game, three points in the second and none against the Rebels.

“I think our players play hard and I think they play with great intensity and I have a tre­mendous amount of respect for what our players have put into this season,” Saban said. “May­be that’s why they play so well in the first half because of all that they do but we have to find a way to strike with more con­sistency for 60 minutes in the game and that’s going to be criti­cal to us in the future.

“We’re happy to win. I’m happy for our players, I’m happy for our fans and I’m happy for the University of Alabama but at the same time we’ve got work to do.”

Alabama is ranked No. 2 for the third consecutive week, but after trailing top-ranked Texas by just 17 votes a week ago, its 90-point lead over third-ranked Penn State has shrunk to 37 points this week.

Apparently, the Associated Press voters haven’t been im­pressed with what they’ve seen, although their poll doesn’t fac­tor into the national champion­ship race. The Crimson Tide is solidly entrenched as the No. 2 team in the first Bowl Champi­onship Series standings re­leased on Sunday afternoon, proof that computers aren’t as easily swayed as voters who watched Alabama blow a 21-point halftime lead and hang on for the win.