Defense is the name of the game in Tuscaloosa and despite several All- Americans departing for the NFL from last year's squad, the Crimson Tide still boast of the nation's top defense. Alabama leads the nation across the board, ranking No. 1 in scoring defense (7.5 ppg), rush defense (55.3 ypg), pass defense (125.8 ypg) and of course, total defense (181.2 ypg). In addition, the team has recorded 19 sacks and 19 takeaways. Despite Alabama's success on defense, Saban sees room for improvement. "Well it's been a hard-working group, and they've had a really good attitude about what they want to try to do," said Saban at his weekly press conference. "I still think there are a lot of areas that we need to improve on. We're going to be challenged in a way that we've never been challenged by the quality of offensive team that we're playing this week and their capabilities in the passing game as well as the balance they have in running the ball, so we're going to need to continue to improve. They're going to need to continue to improve and play well as a group to be able to have success against this kind of offensive team."
"AJ has been able to take every rep in practice. ... He does have a bruised knee," Saban said. "That’s what he has. That’s what the MRI showed. I don’t know why people want to put something out that’s totally, ridiculously untrue. It compromises the integrity of the medical staff, the doctors and everybody who does what they do."
Derek Dooley, like every other head coach that has faced Alabama this season, knows there is a huge difference between hope and belief. Tennessee’s coach knows his Volunteers will bring a belief that they can or will win Saturday night’s game. Every team brings that into every stadium on Saturdays. Like Alabama’s first six opponents, Dooley said preparing for a 60-minute gut check is going to be required. "The important thing is keeping a level of belief and keeping a level of physical and mental stamina in the course of four quarters," Dooley said on the SEC coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday. "Because what makes (Alabama) so good is they will try to wipe out that belief … by how they play, how physical they play, how consistent they play and the discipline they play with. "The big thing we’ve got to do is control what we can control – and that’s our psyche, that’s our preparation and that’s our effort for four quarters."
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy grew up in Louisiana and has said he doesn’t watch much college football. He probably has played in more college football than he has seen on television. He said he had to be taught about the Tide-Vols rivalry. "I’m more of an out-of-stater. So you’re coming in and basically picking up whatever that team has," he said. "Any game, you have to take on the mentality that it’s for you and for the community. For this one, we’re going to take a little different approach and go out and try to play our best and win for ourselves and for the community, for the rivalry."
"I think people will be talking a little different after we beat Alabama," said Josh Cruze who painted the message 'We Dooley Believe In Tennessee' on the rock.
Prepare for a frustrating evening when the Vols are on offense, but keep in mind that it's not necessarily our offense, but Alabama's defense. They do that to everybody. Go ahead and blame our defense for what happens to them.
On defensive end Ed Stinson, who leads Alabama with seven tackles for a loss: "He's a hard worker. He's kind of a blue-collar player. ... He's gotten bigger. He's stronger. He plays the point well. He's got good explosion. He's instinctive. The big thing we try to do with Ed is play with great initial quickness, and when he does that, he's really hard to block."
The wide receivers at the front of their lines today are freshman Amari Cooper and Kenny Bell wide and Kevin Norwood in the slot. Marvin Shinn is backing up Cooper. Freshman Cyrus Jones is backing up Norwood. Christion Jones is third in that line. Danny Woodson Jr. is backing up Bell.
Womack said the SEC won't necessarily return to certain scheduling parameters as it had prior to expansion. Eliminating parameters caused many scheduling quirks in 2012, such as Texas A&M playing three straight SEC road games beginning next week. "I think we'll probably avoid a lot of that," Womack said. "We tried to keep the same parameters, but given this bridge type of schedule and trying to accommodate requests, there are some things that become unavoidable." The format SEC athletics directors selected means teams won't immediately play a return game against their rotating opponent. For example, if Georgia plays at Alabama in 2013, the return game to Athens would be several years down the road. How many years in the future? Womack said it is mathematically impossible for every SEC team to play its rotating opponent exactly once every six years. "There's a little tweak for that to happen home and away, but it's pretty close to that," he said. "Nothing past six years is the way it will come out for the return game."
"Nick called me, and we’re obviously friends," said Pinkel, who played with Saban at Kent State. "Nick Saban doesn’t teach anything like that -- ever. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. I don’t think there was any malice involved. A player just lost emotional control and made a mistake. No one got hurt, and a lesson was learned. I thought Nick handled it appropriately."