Tennessee (3-3) and No. 1 Alabama (7-0) will meet for the 100th time on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The third Saturday in October is typically a top-25 matchup, but this year has a different feel to the game. Alabama opened as a 34-point favorites, and Tennessee has not beaten the Crimson Tide since 2006.
The series has not been competitive as of late, and the closest meeting in the past 10 years was in 2009 when Lane Kiffin led the Vols into Tuscaloosa and lost by two points. Butch Jones and the Vols have been rather close in a couple games, but for the most part, the outcome has gone in Alabama’s favor.
Nick Saban has the SEC by the horns, and until he leaves, the Crimson Tide will keep on rolling over the conference — and the rest of the nation. Saban is a mastermind in college football, and he grabs the opponent by its throat and exposes its weaknesses. Alabama is once again the reigning SEC champion and the front-runner to return to the National Championship game. The Tide have outscored opponents 193-31 in four conference games thus far, and have only allowed three touchdowns in four games.
If you are Tennessee, that is not what you want to hear. The Vols have not scored a touchdown since late in the second quarter against UMass. Tennessee has been lackluster this season in stretching the field vertically, as the Vols longest passes have come on yards after catch, the majority of them by star running back John Kelly.
Tennessee’s keys to success:
Over-and-over it seems Tennessee is put on a pedestal by the Crimson Tide, and spanked in front of the nation, as Alabama annually embarrasses Tennessee year in and year out. There might not be much Jones and the Vols can do this year to contend with the Tide, nonetheless beat them. If they want to pull off the upset and snap the 10-game winning streak Nick Saban holds over them, these are the keys to success.
Butch Jones needs to watch the tape on the past two national championships. Jones needs to let Guarantano loose and stretch the field both vertically, and horizontally. Vertically, Alabama is certainly beatable — every big game the Tide has lost, their opponent has thrown for a ton of yards.
Tennessee needs to ride John Kelly for at least 25 carries. Kelly is not touching the ball enough, and he is the Vols best player. Once the run game opens up for Tennessee, it will be able stretch the field horizontally with new starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Alabama did it last year with Jalen Hurts in Neyland Stadium when Hurts ran for 132 yards and three touchdowns.
Alabama’s keys to success:
This is a mean Alabama team, and it’s hard to find things that Tennessee, or any other team can do to beat them. The Crimson Tide shouldn’t have to kick it into overdrive this game in order to beat Tennessee by a couple touchdowns, but crazier things have happened. Clemson recently went down to Syracuse on Friday night, and Washington State was blown out on the same night.
Alabama’s keys to success will simply be sticking to its 2016 script against Tennessee. The Tide ran for 409 yards and averaged 8.5 yards per carry last year. Running back Bo Scarbrough ran for 109 yards and had a game-long 85-yard run to crush Tennessee’s spirits. Scarbrough will be looking for the same kind of success this year, as he only had five carries last year, averaging 21.8 yards-per-carry.
Crimson Tide star running back Damien Harris carried the football 14 times last year for 94 yards against Tennessee. Alabama simply needs to run the same plays they did last year and they will be just fine. Hurts recorded 185 passing yards a season ago against Tennessee, so they shouldn’t have to throw the ball too many times.
Absolutely nobody is giving Tennessee a chance in this game. This game isn’t for Butch Jones, it is for the players. Alabama wins, 35-6.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports