Did Alabama play its best game of this 2020 football season last Saturday, when the No. 2 Crimson Tide thumped No. 3 Georgia 41-24?
Alabama players sure hope not.
Did Tennessee have its worst showing of the season with last weekend's 34-7 home loss to Kentucky?
The Volunteers sure hope so.
Two Southeastern Conference programs currently at opposite ends of the success spectrum collide Saturday afternoon inside Neyland Stadium when the reeling Vols host surging Alabama at 3:30 on CBS. While Tennessee is trying to quickly pick up the pieces after its most lopsided loss ever to the Wildcats in Knoxville, the Crimson Tide have set an incredibly lofty bar after racking up 564 total yards against the same vaunted Bulldogs defense that pitched a second-half shutout of the Vols the week before.
"The next progression is to do it again and again and again until the season is over," Alabama senior running back Najee Harris said this week. "Hopefully we'll perform at that level every single game."
Alabama last week became the first SEC team ever to produce a 400-yard passer, two 150-yard receivers and a 150-yard rusher against a league foe. Harris leads the SEC in rushing with 499 yards through four games and is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, while redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones has made program history by becoming the first to assemble three consecutive 400-yard aerial games.
Jones has been incredibly effective on deep throws, completing 22 of 31 passes for 825 yards and eight touchdowns on attempts that travel at least 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, which has given Tennessee defenders plenty to think about this week.
"Their offense works well together, and I feel like they've built a great chemistry and are on one page," Vols senior safety Theo Jackson said. "I don't really worry about how good they are. I just worry about what I can do to go out there and perform well.
"We know they're going to throw the ball, and, as a DB, you love when teams throw the ball because it gives you an opportunity to make plays. We'll have to have our very best game, so it should be a challenge."
DeVonta Smith had two touchdown receptions against Georgia, while John Metchie III and Jaylen Waddle each had one. Waddle's was from 90 yards out and put Alabama ahead to stay, making it 27-24 late in the third quarter.
Smith now has 27 career touchdown catches and is just four away from matching the league mark shared by Chris Doering and Amari Cooper.
"We're trying to get our players to build on the momentum that we've created in what we did last week and continue to work hard so we can continue to play well in the future," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "To do that, you've got to be able to handle success. You can't be casual about your approach."
Alabama has scored 35 or more points in 17 consecutive games, and adding to Tennessee's challenge is its fragile offense going up a defense coming off an impressive second half inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Vols threw three interceptions against the Wildcats, including two by fifth-year senior Jarrett Guarantano that were returned for touchdowns. Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney have evaluated their quarterbacks this week without revealing a starter, though Guarantano is considered the favorite to maintain that role for at least this game.
"Offensively, I think it's one of the most explosive Alabama teams that I've seen," Pruitt said. "There is really no weakness on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, you know they play a lot of people, play a lot of tight coverage, a lot of pressure and create a lot of negative plays. They continue to improve every single week, and on special teams, they have lots of playmakers who are dynamic and a lot of speed.
"Obviously, it will be a big challenge for us."
Alabama has won 13 consecutive series meetings and is a 21.5-point favorite to make it 14 straight, but Pruitt isn't making too much of the underdog role from a motivational standpoint.
"To me, a true competitor is self-motivated every single day," he said. "When your feet hit the floor, you want to be at your best. That's the attitude to me that you have to have. Our guys continue to work hard.
"I thought we've had really good practices this week, but we have to take it from the practice field to the game field."