Nick Saban won’t have to worry about any rat poison for a while.

Not after that performance.

No. 1 Alabama outscored Tennessee for the 11th consecutive year, but it was hardly a start-to-stop beating. The Tide’s 45-7 victory Saturday was both comfortable and at times their most listless performance of the 2017 season.

From the opening whistle, Alabama played like a team that knew it could not lose. And make no mistake, the Tide was never, ever in danger of actually losing.

They won their 22nd consecutive SEC game (including championships). They’ve now outscored five SEC teams 238-38┬áthis season. Their defense didn’t do anything spectacular, but it’s hard to argue with zeros, even against a Vols offense as tepid as this one.

But there’s no masking the overwhelming sense that Alabama simply went through the motions most of Saturday afternoon.

Rivalry game? Third Saturday in October? It looked and sounded like A-Day in October.

Alabama took a 21-0 lead into intermission, but two of its touchdowns were helped by costly Tennessee penalties. One, in fact, wiped out a turnover that would have kept the score at 7-0 and given Tennessee the ball at Alabama’s 25.

How many times have we watched Saban warn everybody about taking teams for granted? He chastised reporters early last week for expecting a blowout.

Alabama’s standard for excellence is unfairly and uniquely high, but the first half wasn’t merely a case of Saban being Saban and inventing flaws when none exist.

“We didn’t do very well in practice all week,” he told CBS at halftime. “It’s a good lesson that if you don’t prepare right for the game, you’re not going to play well in the game. I’m not really pleased with the way we played.”

This is where we’re at with this 8-0 Alabama team: 21-0 leads aren’t impressive. Jalen Hurts threw for 144 yards in the opening half, but his misses stood out more. Particularly his three incompletions in the red zone on throws designed to generate six points. It didn’t matter against Tennessee, but it might in Atlanta.

The defense shut down John Kelly and gave up just five downs but didn’t make any of the wow plays we’ve come to expect.

Saban told CBS that he needed to dip into his bag of psychological tricks to elicit a better second half.

https://twitter.com/SDS/status/921849351378522113

Nothing motivates quite like the threat of having the 5-star on the bench take your snaps.

Predictably, Alabama opened the second half with an 8-play, 74-yard touchdown drive. It never faced a third down. Hurts threw four passes, all four going for at least 12 yards, the final one for a touchdown.

It was crisp, clean and quick. It was decisive and dominant. It was what we expect to see every time Alabama takes the field.

That drive ended Hurts’ day. Ahead 28-0, Alabama turned it over to the backups.

Tua Tagovailoa threw a stare-down pick-six on his first possession — the first interception of his career and just the second one Alabama has thrown this season. He bounced back to lead Alabama to 10 points on his next two possessions. Known as the better pure passer, Tagovailoa looked like Hurts on a 23-yard designed draw for a touchdown, losing the defender with the best chance to tackle him with a jab step.

Those smiles were temporary, too.

Alabama fumbled another punt return, giving Vols possession at the Bama 20. Tennessee moved inside the 1. A false start pushed them back. And Mack Wilson intercepted Jarrett Gauaranto’s fourth down pass, stretching Tennessee’s streak to 14 consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown.

Tagovailoa then fumbled a snap, setting up a 2nd-and-16. He responded with a strike to Henry Ruggs III, who did the rest on a 60-yard touchdown catch.

Up and down. Hardly great, but good enough on this particular Saturday.

That’s all Alabama needed to beat Tennessee, but the Tide will need more as the sledding gets considerably tougher after the bye week.