Many Tennessee fans have been calling for Butch Jones’ job this season, and Jones himself accused the media of spreading “overwhelming negativity” earlier this season. And Alabama head coach Nick Saban has echoed Jones’ sentiments about the negativity around the Vols.
Saban spoke to the media this week as part of his planned media availability, and he was asked about Jones and the state of the Vols’ program.
“Well, I think that a lot of this stuff gets really overblown,” Saban stated to reporters. “I think, just talking about our opponent this week (the Vols), I think these guys do a really good job. They’re really good coaches. They could be 5-1 if it wasn’t for two last plays of the game.
“So, you know, I think sometimes the media, fans, everybody gets a little bit overzealous in terms of the criticism. Sometimes that can be a negative. I don’t think you can allow that to affect your team or your program.”
Saban claiming that the Vols are two plays away from being 5-1 is referring to two close SEC losses this season, of course. Tennessee lost on a last second touchdown to Florida in Gainesville and lost to South Carolina this past weekend after Jarrett Guarantano’s pass was smacked out of the hands of Brandon Johnson in the end zone as time expired.
But the Vols could easily be 2-4 or 1-5 at this juncture as well. Tennessee stopped Georgia Tech from scoring the game-winning two-point conversion in double-overtime in the season opener, and UMass gave the Vols all they wanted as Tennessee escaped Neyland Stadium with a 17-13 victory in that one.
Only one of the Vols’ losses this season has been a blowout, and that was the historic 41-0 loss to Georgia. But when you throw in Tennessee’s 42-7 victory over Indiana State, the Vols’ margin of points allowed vs. points scored this season is minuscule. The Vols have been outscored by 13 points total this season, and four of their six games have been decided by a single score.
And according to Nick Saban, the Vols have been very competitive this year because of that.
“The way I see it. these guys are competing in games,” Saban said of Tennessee. “I think the coaches have done a really good job with that. So I have a lot of respect for both these coaches and what they’ve done, and we’ve had some really tough games with them. So, from my standpoint I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.”
Saban pointed out that he’s had “some really tough games” with Tennessee under Butch Jones. The Vols have played Alabama four times under Jones heading into this weekend’s game, and only one contest has been decided by single digits. The 2015 match-up saw Alabama come back after trailing in the fourth quarter to defeat the Vols 19-14. The next-closest match-up was the 2014 game that saw Alabama jump out to a huge lead early and Tennessee fight back to make the margin look more respectable in a 34-20 loss.
Saban’s other two victories over Tennessee and Jones have been blowouts. The Tide handled the Vols 45-10 in 2013 and 49-10 last season. And Alabama is favored by around 35 points this weekend as well.
There hasn’t been a lot of positivity to discuss about the Vols this season, but Nick Saban agrees with Butch Jones that the negativity is “overwhelming” around the program right now.