KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Butch Jones says this is the best Alabama team he has seen, but his players aren’t afraid of facing the Crimson Tide.
“Since the day I came in here, nobody is really scared of Alabama or thought that we weren’t as good,” Tennessee junior tight end Ethan Wolf said at Monday’s press conference. “We’ve got a lot of pride in ourselves and last year (a 19-14 loss) was just proving that. We were leading until the last series, so it’s frustrating we couldn’t pull that one out.
“But I think that all the work we’ve put in since that game, there’s definitely no fear or feeling of not being good enough to beat Alabama, by any means.”
The No. 9-ranked Vols (5-1, 2-1 SEC) play host to the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0) at 3:30 p.m. at Neyland Stadium on Saturday (TV: CBS).
Alabama is riding the nation’s longest active win streak at 18 games, while Tennessee has lost 12 straight games against SEC West Division opponents dating back to 2010.
The Tide, which has also won nine straight against the Vols, certainly has Jones’ respect.
“Alabama, number one team in the country, what can I say?” Jones said. “(They have an) 18-game win streak, eight consecutive games where they have scored a non-offensive touchdown, so they are finding ways to score points, via special teams, via defense, it doesn’t matter.
“I think this is the best Alabama team we’ve faced since we’ve been here … they have all been talented, and not to take away anything from those other teams.”
Jones, who is in his fourth year as Tennessee’s head coach, is impressed with the Tide on both sides of the football.
“Explosive, explosive on offense, playmakers all over, big imposing offensive line,” Jones said. “They’ve done a great job of protecting (Jalen) Hurts, and Hurts has done a tremendous job managing their offense. His running ability adds another element to their offense.”
Coach Nick Saban is best known for his teams’ defensive prowess.
“They’re 12th in the country in total defense, number one in fewest yards rushing,” Jones said. “It’s the best secondary in terms of what we concern ourselves, of any Alabama team we’ve faced.
“A lot of respect for Coach Saban and whats going on there, with discipline they bring it every game.”