When it comes to the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry, the story lately has been the tale of two halves.
In the last three matchups spanning from 2010-12, the Vols have played the Tide fairly close in the first half, only being outscored 42-26.
The last 30 minutes, however, have been far from close. In the last three games, the Tide have outscored UT 70-3 in the second half.
If the Vols plan on upsetting the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, they will have to compete for the entire 60 minutes to have any chance.
"You have to play 60 minutes," junior running back Marlin Lane said. "We have to finish. This year we have to have a better half than last year. We (need) that killer instinct mind when we come out of halftime to continue doing it."
The Third Saturday in October rivalry – which is played on the fourth Saturday this year – is a rivalry between the two schools that dates back to 1901 and has been played for 69 consecutive years.
Alabama leads the series 50-38 with seven ties.
With such a rich and deep tradition, the Vols are looking forward to laying it all on the line, especially since Alabama has been ranked in the top 10 the last five times the teams have met.
"I feel like this is a good game to put it all out there," senior running back Rajion Neal said. "I wouldn't mind either out-rushing everybody on the field and having a big game or just knocking myself completely out of the game. I want to go out on one of those two notes, either being carried off of or 'Neal had a crazy game.'"
It isn't enough that the Vols will have to face the back-to-back national champions, but they'll also have to do it on the road in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a place they haven't won at since 2003.
"We talked to our team about taking the next step in the evolution of becoming a championship program, becoming a winning team, winning with consistency and to do that you have to be able to win on the road in all the elements that you'll face," offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said.
Quarterback Justin Worley's performance in that hostile environment will be a major factor to whether or not the Vols are able to start a winning streak against ranked opponents for the first time since 2007.
The junior signal caller – who began his UT career in Tuscaloosa his freshman year – has not thrown an interception in the previous two games against Georgia and South Carolina, and has only thrown two in four matchups against ranked teams this season.
"He's playing with more confidence," Bajakian said. "He's making great decisions, but more than anything, he's protecting the football. When you protect the football, you're going to give your team a chance to win.
"He's managing the football game. He's done a good job of understanding the game plan and taking that approach to the field."
Defensively, the Vols will be matched up against the definition of a pro-style offense.
The Crimson Tide rely heavily on their big offensive line and their running backs – T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake have combined for 1,059 yards and both average over 6.5 yards per carry – to shoulder the load offensively, but are also led by senior quarterback A.J. McCarron who has dangerous receivers in Amari Cooper and Christion Jones who can create big plays fast.
"That is the game you like," senior defensive lineman Marlon Walls said about Bama's offense. "No trick plays; they are going to line up against you and see who is the bigger and better man. That is the kind of football that you love to play anyways as the defensive guy so we are just going to take it as a challenge, line up and go play ball."
The Vols have talked all week about how big of a challenge this week is going to be, referring to Alabama as "the red team." But senior defensive lineman Jacques Smith said this season differs from those in the past, mostly in part to head coach Butch Jones.
"This year is different just because of the way we've attacked the year," Smith said. "Starting in January we knew this was going to be a different football team.
"Coach Jones and all the values that he's established in us, 63 effort, relentless, everything that's stuck with us this far, we're not going to forget about them and we're going to continue to play it out through our character and our gameplay."