With a record of 6-1, the Alabama Crimson Tide prepare to face one of their longest-standing rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers.
As the Vols are 0-3 in SEC conference play, Alabama prepared for what looks like an easy win. But coach Nick Saban refused to let his team get caught up in the pre-game hype and has his team preparing for the game with diligence.
"I think you can kind of throw out everything, from record, what happened last week, in the first game of the year and all that stuff," Saban said. "This is a big game for both teams, and they certainly have a very capable team. I think Derek (Dooley) has done a fantastic job with the team that he has. They're well-coached, they play sound and they put themselves in a position to have a chance to win games against good competition."
The Crimson Tide have performed well this year, but according to Saban, there's always room for growth, and the team is building off of previous mistakes, especially on offense.
"Offensively, we probably need to execute a little bit better, and I think everybody has got to take responsibility for that, from a coaching standpoint, from me to everything that we need to do," Saban said. "Every player on offense can't have a couple of plays where they don't do it exactly like it's supposed to be done."
Though Saban is aware that, on many occasions, the quarterback is blamed, he said playing quarterback is a difficult position to play, especially when the people around them aren't doing exactly what they're supposed to do. Saban said every player on the team would agree that he could play better, including the quarterback, but that what the team as a whole needs to focus on right now is improvement and making the corrections to improve.
"We know we can be better, so we've got to go practice with the expectation that we can be better and work on getting better together as a group, with everyone supporting each other, so that we can make the progress that we need to make in all parts of the game," Saban said. "We're still looking to continue to improve as a team so we can play to a standard that I think we're capable of for 60 minutes in the game. We're going to continue to work toward that."
The Alabama-Tennessee game is certainly catching the attention of Alabama fans, as the two have been rivals for several decades. Through the years, the teams have had a kind of rivalry that is hard to ignore, even with the apparent mismatch on the field this Saturday.
"The Alabama-Tennessee game is certainly a signature game for our fans and our alumni," Saban said.
Longtime friends and former coaches together, Dooley and Saban respect each other but are ready to compete against each other in the upcoming game. Their past history together could be a source of concern for Alabama, as Dooley will have a better feel for the coaching style of Saban and his team's actions.
"Philosophically, I've always believed in what he believes in," Dooley said of his former mentor. "That's a starting point. A lot of our organizational structure is very similar. But we're very different personalities. We have a lot of respect for each other, and we're friends. But it's like any coach, you believe in some things philosophically the same but everybody's personality's a little different and how you put it on the program."
Alabama is returning from a recent win against Ole Miss last week and a loss in South Carolina two weeks ago, the team's first regular season loss in three years.
The Tide and Vols will kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday in Neyland Stadium, with the game televised on ESPN.