Tennessee brings renewed confidence into rivalry game with No. 1 Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) The Tennessee Volunteers don't think facing "the red team" sounds particularly scary.
That's what some Volunteers players have taken to calling the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in an effort to negate the intimidation factor for Saturday's game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"When teams hear that name or when they come to play against them, they're mentally beat already when they step on the field due to the fact they're the No. 1 team," Tennessee wide receiver Alton "Pig" Howard said. "I'll give them credit, but we've got warriors on our team as well."
Nobody has really challenged Alabama this season except for No. 13 Texas A&M.
The Vols (4-3, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) aren't being given much of a chance by oddsmakers either. They're four-touchdown underdogs despite coming off a 23-21 win over then-No. 11 South Carolina and an overtime loss to then-No. 7 Georgia.
Alabama (7-0, 4-0) has outscored its last five opponents by a combined score of 201-16, including last weekend's 52-0 victory over Arkansas, another rebuilding SEC team.
The Tide also has owned this border rivalry lately, winning the last six meetings by an average of 23 points.
Vols coach Butch Jones downplayed the references to Alabama as the "red team."
"No big deal," Jones said.
The Tide, meanwhile, is trying to match the seven-game winning streak Tennessee produced from 1995-2001 that is the longest any team has produced against Alabama.
The Vols have built up some swagger going into this one, thanks to the recent success and Jones. Plus, anything seems possible after five ranked SEC teams fell last weekend with Alabama and Missouri remaining comfortably above the fray.
Tennessee center James Stone said an upset "would be incredible for this team." It wouldn't be as big of a stunner as it seemed before the South Carolina game, though.
One tradition in this game is the winners get victory cigars. It still caught Alabama safety Landon Collins by surprise when he was handed a stogey as a freshman last season.
"I'm like, 'What am I supposed to do with this?'" Collins said. "They said, 'You're supposed to smoke it.' I was like, I'll just keep it as a souvenir as my first win. That's what I did."