Saban Recognizes Tradition Game

No one seems to feel it. It's Tennessee week. Not the Third Saturday in October, but even when the Southeastern Conference failed to keep that great tradition, Alabama vs. Tennessee still had plenty of juice. Now, not so much.

But that doesn't mean Alabama Coach Nick Saban isn't playing the tradition card. The first thing he did before staring the regular Wednesday press briefing was to tell reporters he didn't want questions that were off topic, meaning off the Tennessee game topic.

It gave him an opportunity to point out how important the game is because of its tradition. It's true, as he pointed out, that Alabama with 22 SEC championships and Tennessee with 13 titles have combined for more league crowns than have any other two schools playing a rivalry game. The Tide and Vols rank one-two in championships won, just as they rank one-two in winning percentage, games won, bowls attended, bowls won, 10-win seasons, and just about any other category.

So there have been plenty of good Alabama-Tennessee games because there have been lots of good Crimson Tide and Volunteers teams. This Tennessee team, however, does not appear to be one of them. The Vols are coming off a 38-7 loss at the hands of LSU. Their best win?

Choose between Montana, Cincinnati, and Buffalo.

It's unusual -- perhaps unprecedented -- for one team to be such a prohibitive favorite as is Alabama for Saturday's game. The Crimson Tide is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in SEC games and ranked second in the nation. Bama has steamrolled the opposition, including beating three ranked teams, two of them on the road. Tennessee, meanwhile, is 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the league and expected to extend its losing streak at the ands of Bama to five.

Yeah, but.

Saban said, "We had a terribly difficult game two years ago against these guys." That's true. Terrence Cody blocked a field goal attempt on the final play of the game to preserve Bama's 14-12 victory.

That block will likely get some air time on ESPN2, which is televising the game from Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. Kickoff is at 6:21 .m. CDT.

Saban said, "I think it's really important to our players how they do in games against their rivals. People will ask you that for the rest of your life. 'How many times did you beat this team? How many times did you beat that team?'

"Those are important accomplishments to our players.

The Tide coach said nothing substantially is done differently in preparation for a rivalry game, but said an effort is made to "make our team very aware of traditions and rivalries.

"We have a lot of respect for Tennessee and we have a lot of respect for the rivalry."

On the injury front, Saban said several players "didn't do a whole lot" of practicing Wednesday. One of them was star offensive lineman Barrett Jones. Saban said Jones would be ready to play.

First year starting right guard Anthony Steen has been out with a concussion suffered in Alabama's 52-7 win over Ole Miss last week. The coach said the medical staff would make the determination when Steen is ready to return to practice and that will determine when he might be able to play in games.

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron has been added to the 2011 Manning Award Watch List. The redshirt sophomore has connected on 117-of-174 passing (67.24 percent) for 1,380 yards and nine touchdowns with zero interceptions in the last six games. McCarron has started all seven of Alabama's contests this season at quarterback. He has reeled off 151 consecutive passes without throwing an interception. It is the third-longest streak in school history.

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