Ingram Says Tide Sees U-T As Big

For 66 years, Alabama and Tennessee played football on the Third Saturday in October, a phrase known to football fans everywhere. Bama vs. UT has long been the preeminent college football rivalry in the South, among the greatest in the nation. This year the Crimson Tide and Volunteers are playing on the fourth Saturday.

When the Southeastern Conference expanded to 12 teams and divisional play in 1992, it was determined by the SEC administrators that one of the protected inter-divisional games would be Alabama vs. Tennessee. It is unfortunate that the SEC lacked the calendar skills to keep the game on the third Saturday in October each year, but that doesn't diminish the rivalry.

"To a lot of people, this is the only game that matters," said Crimson Tide tailback Mark Ingram. "This is a big game, a big rivalry, something that both teams and everyone associated with both teams takes pride in."

Bama and the Vols will kick off at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central time) Saturday in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. ESPN will televise the game. Alabama is 6-1 overall and 3-1 in SEC games and ranked seventh in the nation. Tennessee is 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the league.

It has been a rough first year for Tennessee Coach Derek Dooley. The Vols have beaten only Tennessee-Martin(50-0) and UAB (32-29, and that took double overtime). Arithmetic cost Tennessee one game. Against LSU the Volunteers had 11 defenders on the field as LSU tried frantically to get off a final play. Then the Vols took away two and added four. Thirteen was too many, so LSU got to try again and Tennessee had let one get away.

Tennessee was blown out by Oregon and Georgia and beaten by two touchdowns against Florida.

Ingram isn't looking at the record.

"I don't pay attention regardless of any team we're playing," said the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. "If the record is 6-0 or 0-6, it doesn't matter because we're going to be trying to play our best game no matter who we're playing. So that's our main focus, going out and practicing hard this week and getting ready for a tough game because this is the only game that matters."

The SEC usually awards Tennesssee an open date before the Vols play Alabama. This year, Tennnessee is the third of six consecutive league opponents who will have two weeks to prepare for the Tide.

Ingram thinks Alabama has to be particularly well prepared because those teams have extra planning time.

Last week Bama struggled to a 23-10 win over Ole Miss. Ingram explained, "Every week every team puts a lot of people in the box to try to stop the run. They had a good game plan and they went out and executed it. They had a little extra time to prepare for it and focus on it, look at things how we're doing. But that's not an excuse. It's all about us. Every last person has to start executing better."

The Tide tailback said he saw a step in the right direction against Mississippi. "I think as a team we put in a lot of effort and had a lot of toughness," he said. "I think we want to execute better, but we had good effort."

Ingram isn't about to throw Bama quarterback Greg McElroy under the bus, although McElroy has come in for criticism and even criticized himself for the Tide's lethargic offensive play.

"We have complete confidence in Greg," Ingram said. "It's up to all the people on offense, every single person on this team. We have to execute better. We've been making some mistakes. Sometimes it's just one person doing it wrong. It's all on us."

Alabama will get its bye week following the Tennessee game. Ingram was asked if the team needed the open date and the few days away from football.

"I think everybody feels good," Ingram said. "I think everybody wants to go out and practice hard this week and play a great game. Get to the bye week so we re-establish ourselves and refurbish and get ready for the second stretch, but right now the main focus is on Tennessee. I think everybody has their energy towards the game."

Most people remember one thing about last year's Alabama –Tennessee game, that being defensive tackle Terrence Cody blocking Lincoln Daniel's 33-yard field goal try on the final play of Bama's 12-10 win. Ingram has tried to forget one other thing in that game—the only fumble he has lost as a Bama running back.

"I've tried to forget about it," Ingram said. "But I grew up a lot in that game."

Ingram missed the first two games of the season with a knee injury and has had spotty performances the past couple of games. He said, "I still ice it, take care of it. Keep it from swelling. Come Saturday, I feel good."

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