Old-fashioned football still has a home.
By establishing the run and stopping the run, Alabama has bolted to a 7-0 start entering Saturday night's game against Tennessee. The Volunteers will be without top quarterback Tyler Bray and top receiver Justin Hunter when they visit Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the Crimson Tide have been old-fashioned in respecting every opponent.
"I think that this game coming up is a game that's really important from a tradition standpoint to the University of Alabama," Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday. "It's important to a lot of people around here, and rivalry games are always games that you have to be ready for.
"I think we played this team two years ago here in a very similar circumstance and had to block two field goals to win, with one being at the end of the game."
Alabama's closest call during its 2009 BCS championship season was a 12-10 escape of Tennessee. That Tide team, while stout defensively, was not as smothering statistically as this year's version, and the Vols entered Tuscaloosa two years ago coming off an open date and not a 38-7 beating at the hands of LSU.
This year's Tide rank No. 1 nationally in total defense (allowing 184.1 yards a game), rushing defense (38.1) and scoring defense (7.0) yet refuse to rest on those accomplishments.
"If you go back and eliminate the plays where we did things wrong, we should have shutouts all the way through," senior nose guard Josh Chapman said.
Saban was asked Monday if he had any nicknames for his defense and bristled at the thought.
"No, I don't have any nicknames for them," he said. "I just want them to play better, not give up a 65-yard and a 59-yard pass in the beginning of the game, and to get off the field on third down. We need to eliminate the big plays, continue to play the way we're capable of playing and stay focused on what we need to do to improve as a team."
The thought of Alabama improving is terrifying.
In a stretch that began with last season's 49-7 crushing of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, Alabama has won eight consecutive games by 16 or more points. That is the Crimson Tide's longest streak of dominance since the final six games of the 1977 season, which included a 35-6 thumping of Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, and the first two games of '78.
Alabama is allowing just 27.4 rushing yards a game during this stretch and is averaging 245.8 behind tailback Trent Richardson, who leads the nation with six consecutive 100-yard games and used a reverse step to cap a 76-yard touchdown in last week's 52-7 trampling of Ole Miss.
Richardson has 912 yards, which is seven more than Mark Ingram had two years ago at this point on his way to the Heisman Trophy.
"Trent's a good guy," junior guard Chance Warmack said. "He's like a little kid in the huddle, always laughing and smiling. You can't not block for a guy like that."
Alabama clearly is rolling -- quarterback AJ McCarron is coming off a 19-of-24 passing performance and the Tide average just 3.14 penalties per game -- but being old-fashioned means getting up for everyone. Especially a team that nearly derailed their most recent championship season.
"The last thing I remember about that game was being in my stance and thinking we could lose this game," junior linebacker Nico Johnson said. "I don't remember anything before that. We blocked the field goal, and we were fortunate to keep our season going undefeated."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 434-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...