Regardless Of Records, It’s Tennessee Week

Remember a week ago, Alabama coming off a one-point win over Arkansas, and Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban wanted to talk about how his players won a tough game and how pleased he was to see them being happy? So what do we talk about after blasting Texas A&M 59-0? Not the Aggies.

“It’s really time to turn the page on this last game and turn our attention to Tennessee and what we need to do to prepare our best football game against a very good team,” said Alabama Coach Nick Saban Monday.

Alabama, now 6-1 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference games and ranked fourth in the nation, takes on Tennessee in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville at 7:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 p.m. central time) Saturday with television coverage by ESPN2. The Vols are 3-4 overall and 0-3 in the conference.

Saban said that, as is always the case, there were things on tape to improve on. “But,” he conceded, “the effort in this last game, the toughness that we played with, the physical nature of the way we ran the ball all game, tackled; all those things are real positive energy-type things that we really want to build on.

“But it's really kind of time to turn the page on this last game and turn our attention to Tennessee and what we need to do to prepare to play our best football against a very good team.”

Saban did say that Alabama was in good shape from an injury standpoint, including getting center Ryan Kelly back to practice this week. Kelly was injured in the loss to Ole Miss and missed the Arkansas and Texas A&M games. He said that right tackle Austin Shepherd, who suffered a leg injury against A&M, would “probably be limited for a day or two. Other than that, we've got some guys that are nicked up a little bit. But everybody's ready to practice today and get going.”

Since the advent of the SEC in 1933, the Alabama-Tennessee game has been the cornerstone of college football in the South. This will be the 97th game in the series with Bama having a 51-37-8 advantage, including seven consecutive wins under Saban. The Crimson Tide and the Vols rank first and second in the SEC in championships and games won and winning percentage and are also first and second in bowl games and bowl victories.

Saban said the game “is one of the great rivalry games in college football. It certainly has a lot of tradition, and is something that has been very special and means a lot to a lot of our fans; certainly means a lot to me and our staff and our team.”

Saban pointed to Tennessee losses to Georgia (35-32) and Florida (10-9) in saying the Vols were “much improved” and “could be 5-2 very easily.

“I think it starts with the fact that they've got very good skill players and a very good quarterback on offense, most of which have quite a bit of experience.

“Defensively, they're much improved; almost 100 less yards a game than a year ago, a lot fewer points. Really played well in the secondary and done a good job of pass defense and their front seven has done a good job.

“This to me is a much, much improved team. It will take a very good effort on our part in terms of what we have to do to play them up there on the road, to focus and execute like we need to to have success.”

Even though Saban did not want to talk about the previous game, a question about line play led to last week.

“What I'd rather focus on is what you're going to do in this game,” Saban said. “The last game is kind of over. We did a good job in the game. The lines did a good job in the game. We did a better job on the offensive line. We need to build on that. The defensive line did a good job in the game. There was a lot of pass rush, not a lot of run.

“It's going to be different in this game. We need to improve and continue to build on the positive energy that we have so that we can play better this week.”

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