KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The 2021 season is a season of firsts for the Tennessee football program under Josh Heupel, and on Saturday, it’ll be his first for the Third Saturday in October matchup with the Crimson Tide.

His first Florida game ended in a loss, but Heupel has been in every game this season, in big wins and close losses. Besides the double-digit loss to Florida, the Vols have lost to Pitt by 7, and Ole Miss by 5.

In each of their four wins, Tennessee has won by double-digits. In those wins, the offense has put up, 38, 56, 62 and 45 points.

In the Florida loss, Gainesville and Gator fans gave Tennessee all they could handle in a hostile road environment — now it’s time for Tuscaloosa. Coach Heupel spoke on preparing for the environment against the Tide.

“You try to replicate that in the way that you prepare. Create crowd noise for your offense to have to deal with in communication. We’re further along for who we are as a program this year, I think our kids will handle it the right way and be dialed into their assignments and be able to communicate.”

He added that the team has continued to grow even in the past 48 hours, especially in the areas that he and the coaching staff believe will give them a chance to play at a really high level.

When asked about the rivalry Heupel said, “Saturday we get an opportunity to play in this one. As soon as I touched down here in Knoxville, this is a game that this fanbase and players know is important. One that they’re extremely excited about. For the coaching staff, this is a lot of our first to be in this game and environment — looking forward to going down there and competing with our group of guys.

Nothing given on QB situation for Bama game

As expected, Heupel didn’t give anything away on who will be under center against the Tide after starter Hendon Hooker has been dealing with an injury sustained in the Ole Miss game. Hooker, along with starting running back Tiyon Evans and offensive lineman Cade Mays, were all listed as day-to-day on Monday.

He said, “Hendon has gotten some work throughout the course of the week, the other guys have gotten some work. Medically we’ll make a determination where all those guys are at here when we get done with tomorrow’s practice. At the end of the day, our training staff is a decision-maker as far as are guys ready to play and compete and all that.”