Alabama Hoping to Avoid Emotional Hangover Against Tennessee: "Humility Keeps You Hungry"

The first rivalry matchup of the season is here for the Crimson Tide and Nick Saban knows his team can't underestimate the Volunteers
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It's the first rivalry game week of the season for the University of Alabama football team and it's aiming to avoid a hangover against Tennessee, after this past Saturday's emotional 41-24 victory over No. 4 Georgia.

“I really don’t know if they [players] can handle it, so we’ll see if they can handle it," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said on Monday to the media via Zoom, when asked how he think his program will respond against the Volunteers. "I haven’t seen them since the game. We’ll see them at 1:30 today, and we’ll see how they work this week and how they play in the game. I don’t know how they’re gonna handle it. Hypothetical questions, I don’t have a crystal ball. 

"I hope they have enough maturity to handle it the way they need to, but we won’t know until we practice all week and until we see how they play in the game.”

The 24-hour celebration rule has been long gone since the game against the Bulldogs, and senior running back Najee Harris wants to make sure his teammates have shifted their focus over to the Volunteers. 

"I hope they’re past it," Harris said. "We have a 24-hour rule, we enjoy the win for 24 hours and we move on to the next team. We’re playing a good team, so hopefully they move past it and their mind is on next week, this upcoming game."

Meanwhile, junior cornerback Patrick Surtain II says he can use the Crimson Tide's performance two years ago against Mississippi State, when the team came off of an emotionally-charged road victory against LSU, as motivation to keep their foot on the gas.

Alabama won that contest against the Bulldogs, 24-0. 

“We just learned we can’t take no weeks off," Surtain said. "We’ve got to prepare every week like it’s your last week. That sort of kicked us in the foot a little bit two years ago, but we learned from our mistakes and we’re ready to start something new this year.” 

Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt will be the fourth consecutive former assistant that Saban has faced this season and with the Volunteers reeling from a 34-7 defeat against Kentucky, the Crimson Tide coach knows his team can't sleep on them, especially in a grueling SEC-only regular season. 

"I think it's really important this week — I talked about this after the game — that our players have humility," Saban said. "That's what keeps you hungry in terms of what you have to do to improve and to play the next game. And I think everybody knows that this Tennessee game is a big rivalry game. It means a lot to a lot of people in the state of Alabama, and I'm sure that because it's a rivalry game, we're going to get the absolute best version of Tennessee's team.

"Jeremy's done a really good job there in my opinion. They've played very, very well this year. Last week was a little bit of an anomaly. And again, that same ole word comes up. They turned the ball over and that made a huge difference in the game. But they have some very capable players. I think they've got two very good running backs. The quarterback's very athletic. They've got some good skill players outside. Their defense has played really well this year. They've got a really good pass defense. Their defense is like fourth or fifth in the league overall. They're very, very well coached.

"They do a good job on special teams. So we're going to see a good team. They play their best against us. They've beat some good teams this year when they've played well. And they're very capable. I would expect we'll see that kind of effort from them this weekend."