"I'm anxious to play in my home stadium with our home fans and our home crowd a few times," Franchione continued. "Playing in Birmingham was a partisan crowd for us, but it wasn't the same. From the time you get to the Bryant-Denny that place is hopping pretty good. I don't think our student body was as prevalent (in Birmingham) as I think it'll be at the game Saturday. Our students have been a real positive factor for us. Our players have commented about that."
Alabama will host the 11th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers this Saturday at 2:34 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The annual "Third Saturday in October" clash will be televised nationally by CBS Sports. After Saturday's loss to the Rebels, Alabama's record stands at 3-3 overall, 2-2 in the conference. The Volunteers are 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
Franchione spoke to the media this afternoon after the Wednesday workout. "It was a good practice. We've had two good days of work. The physical part is over for the most part. We'll need to have a good clean up day tomorrow."
Alabama will face a typically tough Volunteer team Saturday, but the Tennessee defensive line is outstanding. Led by last year's Outland Trophy winner John Henderson, the unit leads the nation in rushing defense. "I think this will be a physical game," Franchione said. "Our O-Line versus their D-Line will be a big part of it. Keeping the ball in front of us in the passing game and making them grind for their yards will be important. The physical war up front will be pivotal. If we can't sustain some kind of success in the trenches, then we're going to have a tough day."
On offense Tennessee has another group of talented receivers, and tailback Travis Stephens leads the SEC in rushing, averaging 147 yards per game. "They keep giving it to him and he's shown to be durable enough to carry it a number of times," Franchione said. "It's not a real secret to know who's going to get the ball most of the time in their offense. But good teams are like that. I call him a downhill runner. He goes North and South downhill fast."
With two conference losses on its ledger already, Alabama faces an uphill battle in the Western Division race. But Franchione believes his squad can contend. "If you look at us, you can see where a handful of plays would make a difference one way or another. Then if you compare who has played who in the conference, you feel like there is not a game left on our schedule we can't win. And there's not a team on our schedule left that can't beat us."
A victory Saturday would be key to Alabama's chances of making it to the SEC championship game, and it also would break a six-game losing streak to the Volunteers. But in the event of an Alabama victory, don't expect the goal posts to come down. "I don't anticipate that happening at Alabama," Franchione said. "Because I think our expectation is so high. I'm not sure we tear the goal posts down even after we win the national championship. I do know this would be a big win for us if we could break the streak at six, and there would be a lot of people very happy about that."
Reiterating comments he made on his website earlier in the week, Franchione once again made clear that he takes full responsibility for last Saturday's loss. "I never criticize the players, and I want to make sure the fans know that. All the responsibility for a game rests with me."
Franchione also confirmed that barring injury, middle linebacker Freddie Roach and cornerback Charlie Peprah would redshirt this season. Defensive end Todd Bates is the only member of this freshman class that has seen varsity action.