Alabama and Tennessee meet for 100th time

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.

Prediction

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

Takeaways from the Vols’ loss to Alabama

Alabama entered Saturday’s showdown with the Tennessee Vols as double-digit favorites, according to a few lines.

The Crimson Tide tripled that margin by throttling Tennessee 49-10 in Neyland Stadium and extending their winning streak against the Vols to 10 games.

Here are a few takeaways from Saturday’s matchup of two top-10 SEC teams.

Alabama is King

There were faint whispers that this Alabama team had penetrable holes. On Saturday, they played nearly flawless football in a number of areas and silenced all the doubters. Not only did the Crimson Tide absolutely dominate arguably the strongest team in the SEC East, they thoroughly embarrassed the Vols across the board. From offense to defense to special teams to coaching, Alabama never relinquished control of Saturday’s contest and completely exposed every one of Tennessee’s deficiencies.

For the rest of the SEC West — and the entire NCAA for that matter — it’s still the Crimson Tide’s world. We’re all just living in it.

Tennessee offense with Jalen Hurd stalls

Tennessee’s offense gained nearly 700 yards without Jalen Hurd against Texas A&M last week. With Hurd back in the lineup against Alabama, the offense wasn’t nearly as effective, gaining only 163 yards of total offense. Most of that is credited to the Crimson Tide’s punishing front seven. As soon as Hurd or Alvin Kamara received a handoff, they found themselves surrounded by prowling Alabama defenders.

However, it’s worth noting how stagnant the offense looked with Hurd as the primary ball handler. While Hurd deserves credit for his ability to bruise through tackles, Kamara’s versatility presents more challenges for defenses. On the afternoon, Hurd finished with 16 touches and 27 total yards compared to Kamara’s 28 yards on 10 touches.

Defensive Line Dominated

The healthiest unit with the most depth on the Vols’ entire defense is the defensive line. Given all the catastrophic injuries in the back seven, immediate dominance from the front four is a necessity for Tennessee’s chances in any game, especially against an offensive line as potent as the Crimson Tide’s.

There were a few bright moments. Derek Barnett blindsided Jalen Hurts in the second quarter and set up the Vols’ only touchdown of the game. Later in the quarter, Shy Tuttle swatted a Hurt pass that eventually fell into the arms of Barnett.

Other than that, Alabama had its way with Tennessee’s defensive line. Anytime a team rushes for 438 yards and five scores, they’re clearly winning the battle in the trenches. As great as Barnett and the crew have been all season long, they all were overpowered and flat-out embarrassed.

Vols get much-needed bye week

The past four games have been described by Vol Nation as the orange and white’s “four-game stretch of doom.” All four games came against opponents who are either ranked currently or were ranked at the time of the game. Many predicted Tennessee would go 2-2 during the stretch, with both losses coming to the Aggies and Crimson Tide, and that’s exactly what happened.

Now, the Vols enjoy a much-needed week off before a much lighter back half of their schedule. They’ll likely use the time off to rest countless injured players and discover ways to begin games in a more effective manner.

Edited by Adam Milliken

Featured image by Sumner Gilliam

Tennessee looking to break nine-game streak against Alabama

The last time Tennessee beat rival Alabama, fans took to MySpace to brag about it.

Miley Cyrus debuted as Hannah Montana for the first time on Disney Channel, while Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back.

However, marred by one-year wonder Lane Kiffin and the dark Dooley era, the Vols haven’t put up much of a fight in the previous nine games in the “Third Saturday in October” rivalry. The Crimson Tide have beaten Tennessee by an average of over 21 points a game in the winning streak, with four of those wins coming by 30 or more points.

Despite those stats, the Vols (5-1, 2-1 SEC) has its best chance in a decade to knock off No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC).

The Vols bring their No. 9 ranking into this week’s matchup after dropping a double-overtime contest to No. 6 Texas A&M last week, 45-38. This marks the first time the rivalry is a top-10 matchup since 1999, when No. 5 Tennessee beat No. 10 Alabama 21-7 in Bryant-Denny stadium.

The Vols sit alone atop the SEC East standing thanks to wins over No. 18 Florida and Georgia. If Tennessee beats Alabama, they stare down a much easier second-half of its schedule and control their own destiny in the SEC East race. Not only that, but the Vols could have budding star and sophomore linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. back after Butch Jones called him a “game-time decision” on Monday.

Although Tennessee has only held a double-digit, first-half lead for 39 seconds this season, they’ve finished strong. The Vols have overcome a double-digit deficit in every game but its win over Ohio. However, Tennessee faces a different animal in the Crimson Tide.

“I think this is the best Alabama team we have faced since we have been here,” Jones said during Monday’s press conference.

Jones might know what he’s talking about. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in rushing defense, are 11th in scoring defense and 12th in total defense. Led by defensive end Jonathan Allen and the ferocious linebacking duo of Tim Williams and Reuben Foster, Alabama has dominated in each game aside from its win over Ole Miss.

Meanwhile, freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has led Alabama to the sixth-ranked scoring offense in the country. Hurts has put up over 1,200 yards passing with almost a 64 percent completion rate en route to nine touchdown passes.

Running backs Damien Harris, Joshua Jacobs and Bo Scarbrough have combined for nearly 1,000 rushing yards. The Crimson Tide have scored at least 34 points in every game this season.

Not only that, but the Tide have seven non-offensive touchdowns. That could pose trouble for Tennessee, who rank 124th out of 128 FBS teams in turnovers lost. The Vols committed seven alone last week (five fumbles, two interceptions) in the loss to Texas A&M.

If Tennessee wants to end the losing streak to Alabama and truly control its destiny in the SEC East, it needs to limit the turnover problems.

“It’s a focus, it’s a concentration, it’s the ability of doing two things at once,” Jones said after the loss last week. “We may take 25 minutes a day each week and work on ball security because we have to get it corrected.”

Prediction

Despite overcoming large deficits in each of its big wins this season, the Vols aren’t resilient enough to beat an Alabama team of this caliber for four quarters. Although that was the prevailing thought against high-powered Texas A&M last week, the Tide are better-coached and much more talented on defense. Tennessee won’t put up nearly 700 yards on offense on ‘Bama. However, the Vols probably won’t commit seven turnovers, either. Tennessee has played the Crimson Tide tough the past two seasons, so expect a close game, but the Vols’ defense will be too tired in the fourth quarter to keep Alabama from putting the game away late.

Alabama 31, Tennessee 21

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Five biggest moments in Tennessee-Alabama series

Photo by Ben Ozburn

[title_box title=”Five biggest moments in Tennessee-Alabama series”]

A border dispute, a conference clash, the Third Saturday in October. The Tennessee-Alabama rivalry is one of the premier and most storied rivalries in all of college football history. Predating the Southeastern Conference by 32 years, this rivalry began in 1901, meaning these two teams have been fighting for football supremacy nearly as long as the programs themselves have existed. With the 98th meeting between the teams taking place on Saturday, let’s take a look at the top five moments in this series history.

5. 2009: Tennessee vs. Alabama in Tuscaloosa – Two blocked field goals in one quarter. I can already feel the confusion and heartache creeping back, as I’m sure every Vols fan can. Early in the fourth quarter, Alabama lead 12-3 and had already blocked one Daniel Lincoln field goal attempt. At this point, any comeback hopes the Vols had were quickly fading away. However, with the game coming closer to its conclusion, Jonathan Crompton led an improbable comeback with a touchdown pass with just over a minute left to bring the score to 12-10. The Vols then recovered an onside kick and were in business. Tennessee had a real shot at leaving Tuscaloosa with a victory. Terrance “Mount” Cody had other ideas. With Lincoln poised to kick the game winning field goal, Cody broke through the line and blocked the kick for the second time in the quarter, ending the game.

4. 1995: Tennessee vs. Alabama in Birmingham – Can one really claim to be a true Vols fan without mentioning Peyton Manning at least once on this list? Going into the game, both teams were ranked in the top 15 in the country and Tennessee had lost nine straight to the Crimson Tide. Just 11 seconds in, Manning and the Volunteers proved that they were tired of losing. On the first offensive play of the game, Manning connected with receiver Joey Kent for a touchdown. This would set the precedent for the rest of the contest, as Tennessee went on to handle the Tide, 41-14. This marked the beginning of a seven-game win streak for Tennessee in the series.

3. 1914: Tennessee vs. Alabama in Knoxville – This game holds a special significance in this storied rivalry, as it was the first time Tennessee defeated Alabama at home. The history between the two schools was still fairly scarce at this point in time, as the teams had only been rivals for 13 years. The Volunteer victory marked a major shift in the tide of the series (no pun intended) as Tennessee had gone 1-10 in its first 11 games against Alabama. The Vols would go on to complete their first undefeated season, finishing 9-0 after the spark from the Alabama win.

2. 1939: Tennessee vs. Alabama in Knoxville – General Neyland was once again at the helm as head coach and the Vols were in the midst of one of the most dominant and impressive stretches of play in NCAA history. Coming off an undefeated season in which they earned their first national championship, the Volunteers followed that amazing season with an even more dominant, and awe-inspiring one. The Crimson Tide came into town and were a legitimate threat to not only defeat Tennessee, but also to simply score points. As fate would have it, however, the Vols were not be bested as they ran away with a 21-0 victory. Tennessee finished the regular season undefeated for the second consecutive year, while also holding all of their opponents scoreless. It finished an entire football season without ever conceding a single point. That statistic is other-worldly, and it was the last time an NCAA team accomplished that feat.

1. 1982: Tennessee vs. Alabama in Knoxville – Ah, at last we have the No. 1 moment in the rivalry known as the Third Saturday in October. Some might claim that there is some level of bias in determining the all-time best moment in a series, but it would be difficult to find a more incredibly emotional moment in the rivalry. Alabama had won 11 straight against the Vols going into the ’82 game, which is the longest winning streak for either team in the series. The Volunteers came from behind to take a 35-28 lead, and with time dwindling in the fourth quarter, Mike Terry intercepted a pass in the end zone to ensure a Tennessee win. The streak had finally been silenced and the demons had finally been exercised. Thousands of faithful Vols in attendance rushed the field and tore down the goal posts, happily parading them around in triumph. The players hoisted then-head coach Johnny Majors onto their shoulders and carried him off the field. Tennessee had once again reigned supreme over the Crimson Tide.

Featured image by Ben Ozburn

Edited by Cody McClure

Tennessee vs. Alabama Preview

Photo by Ben Ozburn

[title_box title=”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 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