Tennessee vs. Alabama Preview

A tumultuous start to the 2015 campaign left the Vols reeling through five weeks, but after garnering a season-defining win over Georgia, Tennessee is looking to close out strong.

Photo by Ben Ozburn

Photo by Ben Ozburn

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A tumultuous start to the 2015 campaign left the Vols reeling through five weeks, but after garnering a season-defining win over Georgia on Oct. 10, Tennessee is looking to close out strong.

The Vols’ first order of business in the second half of the season will be a monumental challenge, as they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. Luckily, Tennessee’s bye week came at the perfect time. UT has had two weeks to get ready for Nick Saban’s squad. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS.

Alabama comes into this year’s matchup with a 6-1 record, 3-1 in the SEC, with its lone loss coming at the hands of Ole Miss back in September. The Tide has reeled off three straight SEC wins over the likes of Georgia, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

The “Third Saturday in October” against the Vols is Alabama’s final game before getting a two week window to prepare for undefeated LSU and Leonard Fournette. The Tide rolls into Saturday’s game as a solid 15-point favorite.

Despite being the underdog, this year’s Tennessee team has the ability to provide the most competition for Alabama since Saban took over in 2007. The Vols’ roster is the most talented it has been in several years.

The last time Tennessee gave Bama any competition was when the Lane Kiffin-led Vols took the Tide to the wire in 2009, losing 12-10 on a blocked field goal. Now, Kiffin roams the sidelines as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

If Tennessee is going to have any chance of hanging around until the fourth quarter, it needs to get the ball to its playmakers. And that doesn’t include Jalen Hurd. If the Vols go into this game relying on Hurd to power up the middle, it is going to be a long afternoon.

Hurd will get carries, but his contribution will likely be minimal in this game, as weird as that sounds. There is only one way to beat Alabama and that is through the air.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs and Tennessee’s underwhelming receiving corps must make plays and become a factor in the game. Alabama’s front seven on defense is the absolute best front seven in the country. It has the manpower to stifle Tennessee’s ground attack.

Hurd, as well as backfield mate Alvin Kamara, could factor in catching screen passes and will probably try their hand at getting to the outside on Alabama’s defense. But make no mistake, this one will be centered around the quarterback.

The Vols must throw. Simple enough. Tennessee fans took some comfort in seeing their coaching staff open up the playbook in the second half of the Georgia game, and it worked out. The Vols will once again need to get creative and try to use Dobbs’ abilities the best they can if they want to have a shot at upsetting the Tide.

Really, Tennessee needs to be perfect to win this one. That may not even be enough if Alabama doesn’t turn it over.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Tennessee 16

Featured image by Ben Ozburn