Coach Nick Saban said he always knew that Alabama-Tennessee was a big rivalry. It’s just something a kid grows up knowing.
He compared it to other rivalries that are commonly known: USC-UCLA, Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn and Texas-Texas A&M.
“You know that, but until you experience it firsthand, you really don’t understand the magnitude because you’re not really involved with the people who are involved in the game on both sides and what it means to so many people,” he said.
It’s more than just making the current Alabama fans proud. Saban said the history and the tradition of this game goes way back to some great coaches – including coach Paul “Bear” Bryant – at both Alabama and Tennessee.
“I understand firsthand the importantance of this game,” he said.
Because of this, Saban is hopeful the team and the coaches also understand and are just as motivated as he is to perform their best come Saturday.
Practice this week has centered on getting players locked in and focused on things they need to do. Saban said they’ve been working on eliminating errors in execution, such as negative plays and penalties and also working to continue making big plays on defense.
But, for this week specifically, it’s not enough.
“In games like this, weeks like this, and rivalry games, I’m never really satisfied with where we are,” he said.
Alabama plans to finish its preparation as the weekends draws closer in order to find success against what Saban said is a very good Tennessee team for another challenging conference game.
Again, it’s not just any conference game. It’s a rivalry game, which Saban said is always a little bit different from any other match-up. It doesn’t matter what a team’s record is. It doesn’t matter what the stats say. It all comes down to a team playing its best because that’s what the opponent’s game plan is as well. The mindset going into a rivalry game is different.
“We don’t need to be thinking about winning, we have to think about what you need to do to dominate the guy we have to play against for 60 minutes in the game, and that’ll give us the best chance to win,” Saban said.
Tennessee (3-3) will be coming off a bye week as it travels to Tuscaloosa for Saturday’s game, but to Saban, that doesn’t necessarily give the Volunteers any type of advantage or disadvantage. It can go either way, depending on the team.
“I think sometimes when your team is playing really well and you’re on a roll, and you’re in a rhythm, you just like to keep playing,” he said.
Or the opposite can ring true. If a team is beat up or tired, a bye week can be just what it needs to refuel its system.
“It’s sort of a welcome change to have a few days in which they can recover, recuperate, not practice as much and get yourself healthy,” Saban said.
After Tennessee, Alabama will have a bye week and decide for itself if the time off is beneficial or not.
As for Alabama injury updates, Ryan Kelly, who earlier in the week was under concussion protocol after the Texas A&M game, is making progress. Saban said he has been practicing and moving around, but in mostly non-contact drills.
“We’ll see how he responds to that tomorrow, and maybe he’ll be able to do a little bit more,” Saban said.
Saban also noted the Bo Scarbrough, who had a torn ACL in the spring, is getting better each week. He sees Scarbrough’s speed and burst coming back, and the biggest thing now is getting Scarbrough up to speed on what he needs to do in order to get ready for a game.
“I do think he’s ready to play in a game now, I do think he’s ready to make a contribution,” Saban said. “That’s coming sometime soon.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports