Alabama is coming off a big win, a 34-14 romp over Tennessee in Knoxville. The game ended a seven-game losing streak against the Vols and also catapulted Alabama from 19th to 12th in this week's Associated Press poll. Alabama is now 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference play, tied with LSU for the best record in the SEC Western Division. Vanderbilt is also coming off a victory, a last-minute 27-24 win over Connecticut that broke a five-game losing streak and elevated Vanderbilt to 2-6. The Commodores are winless in four previous SEC games this year.
Franchione said he would hope that his players would think the coaching staff helps the team prepare the same way every week. "We coach hard every week," he said. He noted that some had suggested Alabama took the Tennessee game lightly based on the fact preparation did not include things like playing the country song, "Rocky Top," that Tennessee has allowed to become its theme. He said, "Teams take on the personality of their coaches. I would not want our players to read me as letting down. I respect every team's ability to win."
Franchione know of what he speaks. As he pointed out in his regular Tuesday press briefing, "We haven't scored a touchdown against Vanderbilt since I have been here." Last year in Nashville Alabama defeated the Commodores 12-9, a game in which Alabama kicked four field goals and Vandy kicked three. And Vanderbilt had a potential game-tying field goal just miss in the final minutes.
The Tide coach said, "They played very hard. I know our players respect Vanderbilt. You know they are going to play good, hard-nosed football and we are going to have to fight for everything we get."
While it is true, as Franchione said, that historically Vanderbilt has played Alabama very well, Alabama has a record of 57-19-4 against the Commodores. Since 1961, Alabama has a 40-2 record against Vandy. The Tide has won 17 in a row dating back to 1984 and has not lost in Nashville since 1969. Alabama played in Nashville last year, but makes a return trip to the Music City because of the change in the SEC schedule this year. (By the same token Mississippi State will make a second straight appearance in Tuscaloosa this season.)
Franchione said that Vanderbilt "is playing pretty well at home." And, he said, the fact they are "coming off a win gives them a little momentum."
The Tide head coach complimented Vandy quarterback Jay Cutler and freshman tailback Kwane Doster. He noted that Doster "already has three 100-yard rushing games," and added, "They were able to run the ball on Georgia, and we certainly didn't do that." Franchione also complimented the play of Vanderbilt receivers Dan Stricker and M.J. Garrett.
Franchione said, "The thing that concerns me is they are a ‘time of possession offense' which can limit your opportunities. Our defense will be challenged to play with a little more discipline, a little more assignment football."
He said Vanderbilt's defense is "patient," a philosophy of "bend, try not to break." And he said the Vandy kicking game is "solid." He concluded Alabama "will have to play four quarters."
Franchione was asked about the team's goal of being the best team in the SEC even though NCAA sanctions prevent the Crimson Tide from being in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta at the end of the season. He said that while it is a goal, it has not been discussed recently, that there are too many games to play. He reminded the media members, "Last year, I didn't want to talk about the 'B' word [bowl] until after we won the game before Southern Miss [Auburn]. We hadn't played ourselves into position to talk about it until that game. And so I think that's true in this case. We've got to take care of Saturday. And that's all that matters right now. We can't play any of the games ahead of Vanderbilt before we play Vanderbilt."
Nevertheless, looking ahead, it was announced that the SEC's contract with CBS and Jefferson-Pilot would prevent Alabama's game against Mississippi State from being televised live in any form, including Pay-Per-View. Alabama and Mississippi State will meet at 1 p.m. CST at Bryant-Denny Stadium.