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Defensive MVP: LB C.J. Mosley. This was pretty much a dead heat between Mosley and junior cornerback Dee Milliner. Both have been instrumental in steering the Tide to this point. Mosley is asked to wear several different hats on defense and is one of the most versatile defenders in the league. He covers extremely well and is always in position to make the play. Mosley leads the team with 51 total tackles.
Tennessee has moved the ball and scored on everybody it has played, but the defense has been atrocious. The transition to the 3-4 defense under former Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri has been far from beneficial to this point. The Vols might put a few scores on the board, but can they get any stops? They likely won't get enough to stay too close, and the Alabama defense will prevent the big play. That should lead to a relatively comfortable win for the Crimson Tide.
The Alabama Crimson Tide football team will see familiar faces on the Tennessee Volunteer sideline as they take the field at Neyland Stadium this Saturday. The Tide offense will go head-to-head with a defense coached by former Tide defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, who joined the Volunteer coaching staff before this season. Tide players will also compete against former teammate Darrington Sentimore, who left the Tide in 2010. Linebacker CJ Mosley said it will be fun to see what his former teammate does on the opposite side of the field. The junior also said it will not be weird to see Sunseri on the opposing team’s sideline. "I’m going to be too busy trying to stop the offense," Mosley said. "He was a great coach when he was here. I’m pretty sure he’s doing a great job there, but my job is to focus on the offense and what they’re going to do." Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron said he is not concerned about playing former members of the Tide and does not believe it will affect the team. "You gotta worry about you, how you prepare for the game, what you need to do to win the game," McCarron said.
Win or lose Saturday, Tennessee's football season figures to be inexorably changed by its result against top-ranked Alabama. Win against the Crimson Tide for the first time in six years and the Vols should finish no worse than 8-4, and that's assuming they lose next week at South Carolina, which could have its own self-esteem issues by then. Lose, however, and 2012 officially becomes a Big Orange Bust. It would likely post an 0-3 record in October — which would mean an 0-5 start in Southeastern Conference play for a third straight season under head coach Derek Dooley — and fortify a very realistic concern that this team could mail it in the rest of the way.
Despite coming off a difficult loss, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley was not surprised to see his squad welcome the challenge of this weekend's rivalry game. "We had a good practice today," Dooley said. "The players had a lot of energy. It probably had a little more pep than normal but it wasn't surprising to me because of the team makeup. I like our makeup, I've always liked it. "They've never been a group that gets down or goes in the tank. I'm sure they are frustrated because they want results like we all do, but I think they believe each other and I think they believe in what we are doing." Having a positive attitude has been one of Dooley's primary teaching points in recent weeks and the Vols appear to have received the message. "Like I told them, any time you approach your work with a good attitude and a lot of enthusiasm, you will feel good about it. You will feel good about yourself and what you do and they did that today."
The Vols have been within striking distance in the second half of each loss this season, and Dooley believes they can be just as competitive against the Tide if they can remain focused. "My biggest concern is us," he said. "If we can go out and play to our capacity for 60 minutes, we can find ourselves right in that position we have been in every week. And I believe that." Added sophomore left tackle Tiny Richardson: "The thing is no matter how much adversity you face, you have to come in every week with the mindset to get better. You can't just drag around."
Starting tailback and leading rusher Rajion Neal (ankle) did not practice Tuesday and remains doubtful for Saturday's game. Second tailback Marlin Lane (quadriceps) and starting cornerback Justin Coleman (head) practiced Tuesday and will play. Linebacker Curt Maggitt (stinger, turf toe) said he'll play Saturday after doing more in practice than he has the last couple of weeks, though he won't be near 100 percent.
Five Alabama players, including three offensive linemen, made CBS Sports' first-team midseason All-America team, released this week. Offensive linemen Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker were joined by linebacker C.J. Mosley and cornerback Dee Milliner on a first-team list that included 12 players from the SEC.
AJ McCarron won't be the only quarterback wearing a brace on his knee in Saturday's Alabama-Tennessee game. Vols quarterback Tyler Bray is nursing a knee injury of his own after an awkward slide left him hurting in the fourth quarter of Tennessee's 41-31 loss at Mississippi State. Bray did not practice Monday but was a full participant today. Barring a setback, he'll get the start against Alabama, his first since he enrolled at Tennessee. "It feels great," Bray said after practice. "I went out there in the team period, did a little running and juked (linebacker A.J. Johnson)."
"I ain't going to lie to you, I want this game more than any other game," Sentimore said. "I want to beat Saban." Sentimore didn’t delve into many specifics, but it was clear that his and Saban’s personalities clashed. "I like him, but I wasn't wanting to be under him," Sentimore said. "I just wouldn't rather be under him. "With some players, he'll see you in the hallway and he'll just walk right past you like he doesn't see you. I don't like stuff like that."
Mosley was asked if every week of practice is the same at Alabama or is Tennessee week a little different. "Every week is about the same. When we play Tennessee, it's a big rivalry game, so the coaches come in a little more up-tempo, so as a player, you've got to be ready for a physical and tough practice, because with Tennessee, it's just a rivalry. Things just start boiling up, and you've got to be ready for those type of games. "
With injuries preventing both Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and Missouri quarterback James Franklin from facing the University of Alabama this season, the Crimson Tide defense hasn't competed against quite as much talent at the position as the schedule predicted. This Saturday, however, its biggest test to date awaits. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray ranks second in the Southeastern Conference in passing yards per game at 2 88, and leads the SEC in touchdown passes (16) and completions (131). "This is actually my second time going against him. You can always watch film to see what he likes to do, get your keys, your reads," UA safety Robert Lester said. "It's always great to go against a great quarterback and great competition."
It was a furious debate that had absolutely nothing to do with the presidential election. Instead, it was a war waged over a meniscus. The topic was whether Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's knee was twisted or bruised or whether the meniscus - the fatty pad around his right knee - had some structural damage, specifically a tear. Alabama officials have said since the weekend that McCarron's knee was bruised. He was put back in the game after he took the offending hit at Missouri. He was back on the practice field on Monday. But when a College Football News reporter went on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon and said that "three sources" had confirmed that McCarron had a meniscus tear, the debate was on, at least until McCarron's mother waded in with a reply that the "tear" report was "100 percent false." McCarron was back on the practice field Tuesday afternoon and answered questions afterwards, and while he was coyly nonspecific, he did say he "felt fine," that "rumors were rumors" and, jokingly, that he "wasn't going to lose the leg."
When it comes to Auburn's football future, Barkley said the number one priority is to make sure the program is capable of competing with their in-state rivals. "I'm a Nick Saban fan. That guy's not going anywhere. We have to look at the big picture. We're not going anywhere right now. Can we compete with him the next six years?" "The three saddest days of my life were the day Elvis died, the day Michael Jackson died, and the day Mike Shula got fired." "We've had very good teams at Auburn but we're not Alabama. No disrespect. We've got to get a gameplan in place. Nick Saban is a clear and present danger. You've got to admire and respect what that guy has done."
Freshman Eddie Williams is practicing in a white jersey with the No. 84. As a safety, he normally wears a crimson jersey with the No. 15. His helmet still says No. 15, so it's apparent that he is on the scout team offense, at least for part of the practice. But he did drills with the defensive backs, even when other scout-team wide receivers were running routes. The elite signee enrolled at Alabama in the summer and began preseason camp at wide receiver but soon was switched to safety.
The assumption that the SEC championship is a mere formality, a coronation for whichever team survives the West, is so 2011. The new reality is that the SEC championship game may once again be the toughest game on the schedule. Defending national champion Alabama still appears to be the best team in the SEC - and thus, the best team in college football - but the gap between the divisions in the conference has narrowed. In terms of depth, the East may now be even stronger than the West. That may be mostly due to disappointing years at Auburn and Arkansas, but the top of the SEC East has improved considerably, as well.
That student, UA graduate Irvin Carney, says at the time he recorded his now famous rant, he had never even heard the phrase "viral video". "It was really random," Carney said. "It was so organic and I think that's why it caught on. We just started talking, talked for about 10 minutes before the camera came on. The guy interviewing me knew what I was going to say and I just kind of repeated what we had been talking about. Youtube wasn't really as big a thing then as it is now so I just recorded it and never really heard anything after that. Then a few months later somebody told me in class that he had seen it on a bunch of different websites. I was like, wow, I forgot about that."