The Tennessee Volunteers (2-2) host the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) in an attempt to get their season back on track.
The Vols, ranked No. 14 in the country, had a lead over the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs at halftime when everything fell apart. They would go on to be shutout in the second half and lose the game 44-21.
The next week, they lost to Kentucky 34-7 in their first loss against the Wildcats at Neyland since 1984. In the six quarters since the halftime break in Athens, the Vols have scored just seven points and given up 61.
The root of the problem for the Vols has been turnovers. Tennessee has committed seven turnovers in the past six quarters. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is responsible for six of them, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Kentucky. The other turnover was by quarterback JT Shrout who threw an interception on his only throw of the game against the Wildcats as a replacement for Guarantano.
True freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey was also given the opportunity to play his first downs of his collegiate career against Kentucky. Bailey is a former four-star quarterback out of Marietta, Georgia. He finished the outing going 1-for-4 passing with a 24 yard throw down the sideline to fellow freshman Malachi Wideman.
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said that it is unclear who will play quarterback for Vols on Saturday.
“We’ve repped several guys, and we’ll continue to do that as the week goes,” Pruitt said. “And as we get closer we’ll probably narrow it down to who exactly will be healthy enough and who’s ready to play.”
His options are redshirt senior Guarantano, redshirt sophomore Shrout, freshman Bailey and sophomore Brian Maurer who started multiple games last season as a freshman.
Even with all of these issues, the Tennessee running game performed well. Eric Gray rushed for 128 yards on 24 carries and Ty Chandler rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Pruitt said he was happy with their play but that they could do better after contact.
In the wake of the historical loss to Kentucky, Tennessee has made a coaching staff change as well. Defensive line coach, Jimmy Brumbaugh, was quickly fired after only four games coaching the Vols. He was hired based on a two-year deal in February but Pruitt has not been satisfied with the defensive line’s performance since the preseason. Pruitt will now oversee the defensive line for the rest of the season.
Alabama’s last game was a 41-24 blowout win against No. 3 Georgia. The Crimson Tide closed out the game with 24 unanswered points. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones finished with 417 yards and four touchdowns.
Star wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle had great games totaling for a combined 328 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Running back Najee Harris also played well with 152 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Alabama’s defense is considered one of the best in the country. They proved this playing against Georgia. Alabama gave up 24 points in the first half but made halftime adjustments and pitched a shutout in the second half. They also recorded two sacks and forced three interceptions and a fumble they could not recover.
Tennessee is currently on the longest losing streak against Alabama in their history. They have lost 13 straight games with their last win being in 2006. This year’s game will be different, though. The rivalry was dubbed “The Third Saturday in October” in 1939 hinting at the date the game is played every year. This year it will be the fourth Saturday in October because of the new scheduling due to COVID.
Alabama is currently favored by 21.5 points going into Saturday. This is the second time this season the Vols have been the underdogs going into a game.
Ryan Sylvia, assistant sports editor – Alabama 45, Tennessee 13
Tennessee does not stand a chance against a much more talented Alabama team. Their failure to produce good quarterback play will not let them keep up with the high scoring Alabama offense. The Vol defense will be exposed by both Alabama’s passing and run attack, deciding the game early on.
Game Time and Coverage
Kick off is at 3:30 EST in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game airs on CBS and TNJN will have more coverage following the game.
Edited by Gracie-Lee Strange
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Football Twitter (@Vol_Football)