It had been relatively easy to figure out all but one game on the 2011 Alabama football schedule.…
Alabama plays its third Southeastern Conference road trip in a five-week span (and fourth away game in six weeks) when the Crimson Tide goes to Tennessee Saturday. Bama is 6-1 overall and 3-1 in SEC games. The Vols are 2-4 overall, 0-3 in the conference. ESPN will televise the game, which begins at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central).
Following Wednesday's practice, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "We've had a couple of good days. It's been a nice week weather-wise, nice and cool outside. The players seem to have a little more energy and enthusiasm out there, which is good."
Saban also had reasonably good news on the injury front. He said both right tackle D.J. Fluker and tailback Eddie Lacy were questionable, although they had practiced "a little bit," but that "Everybody else has practiced a lot and barring something happening, I would hope that everyone would be able to play."
Saban said, "The focus has been on improvement. The question I asked after practice today is ‘What does it really mean to improve?' The most successful people have a burning desire to always want to be the best, to be the best they can be, almost an addition to improve.
"This is an opportunity for us to take a step forward and see if we can improve on last week's performance in some areas we'd like to and play to a standard that we have talked about all year. Some great teams -- Chicago Bulls, the Yankees, the Patriots when they were going good -- they had a standard, they played to it, they won a lot of games for a long time. It's difficult to do. It takes everybody being committed to being the best they can be all the time and that is the challenge for us and what our team needs to do.
"This will be a physical game we are playing in. It is going to be away. The Tennessee game is always a physical game. I think that our players have to have a better focus on being able to execute with purpose and not be affected by external factors that are going on around them.
"We've played a little better at home than on the road, and this is an opportunity to show that we can play with focus and intensity and execute in a very difficult environment against a good team on the road. That is basically what we are trying to accomplish this week."
The Crimson Tide coach added that playing on the road is a matter of maturity.
"You have young players who get distracted more easily," Saban said. "There is a big difference between 18, 19 20 year old and a 22, 23 year old. There's also a big difference in a guy who has been there before and done it before and played on the road and knows how to do it. Some of these things you have to learn how to do. It's not inherent that you can go do this as a guy who is starting for the first time. We have a lot of young guys playing, a lot of new starters, especially on defense.
"We need to be able to take the next step of being able to play on the road with consistency and perform well. It's a challenge. I don't think it's about ‘being ready to play.' We don't prepare them to play any different when we play at home than when we play away. I think it's the difference in their ability to focus on the things they have been prepared to do, relatively speaking, and that's something we've got to get better at. And the players have to realize that. I think they learn lessons from it. Hopefully we'll grow and do better this time."