Special thanks to Todd from SB Nation Alabama blog Roll Bama Roll for the following self-scouting report. A similar post from me will be posted over at their place a bit later this morning, so be sure to check it out.
With all apologies to the Bama Sports Report, who have been doing this sort of thing for awhile now, here's my rundown on how to beat the Crimson Tide, just in case the UT coaching staff is actively searching the blogosphere for tips (and really, why wouldn't they?).
1. Challenge the defensive line and linebackers with interior runs: With Terrence Cody in the middle, the Alabama front seven has been remarkably stout against the run so far this season, and it's made the job of the linebackers that much easier. Cody, as you may know, is out this week with a sprained MCL, and there's some fretting as to whether or not Alabama can continue it's dominance against the run without him. Saban's entire run defense philosophy centers around taking away the middle and forcing everything to flow outside where the speed of the linebackers and defensive backs can keep everything contained. So far it's worked because no one has really challenged the middle after Clemson failed so spectacularly, and by calling runs to the outside to try and keep Cody and the line from gobbling them up in the backfield, opposing offenses have played right into Saban's hands. None of this is to say that the interior runs are going to be suddenly effective in Cody's absence. Josh Chapman is a fine NG (and the strongest player on the team) and he's seen plenty of time this season as well, and when Ole Miss attempted to run right at us after Cody's departure from the game last weekend they gained a grand total of 16 yards on 10 carries. So why should UT try and hammer away at us after no one else has had success with it? Because showing a commitment to running between the tackles will force the middle linebackers to stay at home instead of flowing to the outside in anticipation of a counter/sweep/whatever, opening up the cutback lanes and allowing those outside runs to become effective later on in the game.
2. Double moves: The Alabama secondary is going to play tight press coverage 90% of the time, and for the most part Kareem Jackson, Javier Arenas, and Marquis Johnson (who comes in at CB while Arenas moves over to NB in the nickel package, which you will see a lot) have shown plenty of ability to blanket their men and challenge any and every pass thrown their way. We have, however, shown a tendency to be too aggressive in coverage, and if a receiver can get them to break the wrong way on a route it's going to be there more times than not. Considering we were burned several times with "fade-stop" routes against Ole Miss, it's something to think about.
3. Don't turn the ball over, especially in the second half: This one is pretty much common sense, but the Tide is at +5 in TO margin and most of them couldn't have come at a better time, killing promising drives and setting up Alabama scores. Considering the second half doldrums that Alabama has faced so far, if Tennessee can be at least efficient on offense and protect the ball in the second half they have a pretty good chance of keeping things within reach.
4. If Coffee has the ball, go for it: I hate calling Coffee out like this since, by all accounts, he's a good kid that's worked hard to earn so much playing time and is a huge reason we've been so effective in the running game, but his ball security issues are becoming a problem and, even though at least two of them were just bad luck on his part, he's been careless at times in the way he carries the ball. Kentucky stayed in the game for far longer than they had any right to because of a Coffee fumble that killed a likely scoring drive. We've been lucky so far that turnovers haven't beaten us, but luck only lasts so long, and if UT can win out in TO margin, they have a better than average shot at winning outright.
5. Play physical in the secondary: Alabama is going to run right at you, no doubt about it, but John Parker Wilson isn't the fluky, turnover prone QB we've seen the past two years anymore and he can beat you through the air. Ole Miss shut down our run pretty well last weekend, and Wilson came through with some big throws to keep the offense moving, but their secondary isn't terribly good, rating dead last in the league in pass and pass eff. defense. Kentucky kept the passing game contained with very physical press coverage and last time I checked Berry and Morley are more than capable of blanketing receivers in man coverage. Sell out on the run and trust your DBs to keep things covered over the top.
6. Pull out all the stops: Let's face it, UT has everything to gain while Alabama has everything to lose with this game, so throw everything you've got at us. Eric Berry on offense? Why not! Triple reverses and fake kicks? Run 'em on first down! Throw any and everything you can think of at us and keep the 'Bama staff guessing. If it's a miserable failure, at least you tried in a game not many expect you to even be in, and if you win? Well, I don't want to think about that...