Fifth-ranked Alabama looks to stay unbeaten as it hosts SEC rival Tennessee on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Not many expected the Crimson Tide (6-0, 4-0 SEC) to be as successful as they have been this season, except for the Alabama players.
"That's what we're here for," quarterback Brodie Croyle said. "We can't reach our dreams if we don't have confidence in ourselves to get the win."
Thanks to the late heroics of Croyle and kicker Jamie Christensen in last week's 13-10 win over Mississippi, Alabama is 6-0 for the first time since 1996. Christensen, who hit a 31-yard field goal as time expired, said he had a feeling at halftime the game would come down to a late kick.
"I've done it a thousand times. It was no different, except what was at stake," Christensen said. "It's a dream come true."
On the final series, Croyle rushed for 22 yards, passed for 38 and converted three third downs in orchestrating the two-minute offense to near perfection.
"When he talks on the field, everybody listens," coach Mike Shula said.
Alabama's start is the school's best since going 7-0 nine years ago. That team reached the SEC title game and finished 10-3.
Now, as one of seven remaining unbeatens in Division I-A, Alabama can keep dreaming of bigger things, and knows how important the next game - a visit from a border rival to the north - has become.
"It's Tennessee. Tennessee brings out the best in everybody," Croyle said. "We expect them to bring their best game, too. It's huge."
The Volunteers (3-2, 2-2) have won nine of the last 10 meetings in the series, including a 51-43 five-overtime triumph in its last trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium Oct. 25, 2003.
"Honestly, all that success, even though it's good when you look back on it, but push comes to shove when the game starts, none of that stuff is going to matter," said Vols cornerback Jonathan Wade said.
"We're going to have to go out there and play."
Tennessee's erratic season continued in last week's 27-14 loss to No. 4 Georgia, as the Vols had two costly fumbles and an interception to go with 12 penalties for 78 yards.
"Obviously we're very disappointed in the loss. I thought we had a really great week of preparation coming into the game," coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Defensively, I thought we played well enough to win the ball game."
Tennessee's defense has been a bright spot this season. The Vols rank fourth in the SEC and 15th nationally with a rushing defense that allows an average of just 93.4 yards per game. No back has rushed for 100 yards against Tennessee this year.
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