Nick Saban doesn't want to talk about the struggles in Knoxville this season. If anything, he thinks it could serve as motivation for the Tennessee Vols when the team heads to Tuscaloosa this weekend.

Saban spoke to the media on Monday to start the rivalry week and made it clear that this is an important game to the program.

"Obviously this is a rivalry game," Saban said. "It means a lot to a lot of people, including the people in this organization and the people that play in this game. We've had some real struggles at times with this team and this team we have a lot of respect for. Butch Jones has done a nice job there and this team could be very easily 5-1."

Instead the Vols are 3-3 and haven't managed to score a touchdown in the past two games, but Saban still sees a lot of skill on Tennessee's roster.

"They've got good players. They've got a really good running back in Kelly, who's one of the top rushers in the SEC. Their defense, especially the secondary, has played really, really well. Top-ranked pass defense. One of the top-ranked pass defenses in the country. They a good job with the scheme on both sides of the ball and on special teams."

Alabama will look to make it 11 straight wins in the series when these teams square off on Saturday afternoon.

Here are the other topics that Saban addressed during his Monday press conferences:

  • Damien Harris' 75-yard touchdown run on the opening play of scrimmage against Arkansas and why it was successful.
  • How he evaluates Alabama's kickoff coverage through the first part of the season.
  • Punt returning and what might have been the issues on Saturday night.
  • Calvin Ridley's success this season and how he's taken on a leadership role on this team.
  • The wide receiver rotation and whether there's a philosophy behind playing the freshmen together.
  • His impressions of Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano in his first start against South Carolina.
  • Running back Josh Jacobs' development this season and what he brings to the offense.
  • Alabama's identity this year and how Saban feels about this team.
  • His thoughts on Butch Jones and the criticism he's received.
  • How he keeps a team motivated each week regardless of opponent.