Volunteers vs. Crimson Tide Game Preview: Brought to you by Prius Nightmare Synergy

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts, links to SB Nation game pages, and statistical comparisons. Caveats.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • This is going to be a tough game for UT, and not tough in the sense of it being difficult to win. It's going to be hard on morale, so keep it if you can.
  • LSU's schedule appears to be a bit stronger than Alabama's to date. They've both played and beaten Florida. Alabama's beaten Arkansas, and LSU's beaten Oregon. The difference is LSU's win over West Virginia as compared to 'Bama's win over Penn State. Still, the difference is marginal, and the Tide's numbers are still better in most departments.
  • If there's a soft spot on this Alabama team, it's in the passing game when they have the ball. They are still efficient, but they're not putting up a lot of passing yards. Then again, they don't have to because Trent Richardson is a ball hog.
  • I'm not prone to hyperbole, but this may be the best defense we've seen in a decade. Best in the nation against the run, top five against the pass. Averaging a single TD per game.
  • Part of what makes the Tide such a difficult opponent is that they are truly a team. Apart from Richardson, no one else really stands out. It's like that frightening commercial where a bunch of people fit together to make a big, freaky looking clump of stuff that sorta looks like a giant body but makes you go, "WHAT IS THAT THING? I NEVER WANT A PRIUS BECAUSE OF THIS COMMERCIAL!" Call it Nightmare Synergy.

Predictions

  • Alabama 41, Tennessee 7.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

 

Alabama Logo

Kent St. Golden Flashes 9/3/11 win 48 - 7 coverage
@ Penn St. Nittany Lions 9/10/11 win 27 - 11 coverage
North Texas Mean Green 9/17/11 win 41 - 0 coverage
Arkansas Razorbacks 9/24/11 win 38 - 14 coverage
@ Florida Gators 10/1/11 win 38 - 10 coverage
Vanderbilt Commodores 10/8/11 win 34 - 0 coverage
@ Mississippi Rebels 10/15/11 win 52 - 7 coverage

Tennessee Logo

Montana Grizzlies 9/3/11 win 42 - 16 coverage
Cincinnati Bearcats 9/10/11 win 45 - 23 coverage
@ Florida Gators 9/17/11 loss 23 - 33 coverage
Buffalo Bulls 10/1/11 win 41 - 10 coverage
Georgia Bulldogs 10/8/11 loss 12 - 20 coverage
LSU Tigers 10/15/11 loss 7 - 38 coverage

Alabama's averaging nearly 40 points per game while giving up only 7. The win against the Razorbacks is the Tide's best pelt, with Penn State contributing a bit, but it doesn't look like the schedule's been quite as tough as has LSU's.

As with LSU, Florida is the only common opponent between Alabama and Tennessee, so here are those drive charts:

FULL SCREEN VERSION


FULL SCREEN VERSION


Draw from those what you will. Florida scored 33 against us and 10 against the Tide. We managed 23 against Florida's D, and Alabama got 38. I'm sure there's good news in there somewhere, but it's not like I have all day, you know? There do seem to be a lot of punts for 'Bama against the Gators, but there are still those pesky 38 points.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 12 241.57 Army 361.33 1 Alabama 241.57
Passing Offense 72 219.00 Houston 435.50 4 Arkansas 336.83
Total Offense 24 460.57 Houston 603.67 2 Arkansas 466.17
Scoring Offense 14 39.71 Wisconsin 50.17 1 Alabama 39.71
Passing Efficiency 44 142.24 Baylor 206.86 5 LSU 155.55
Sacks Allowed T-46 1.57 Stanford .33 2 LSU .71

Offensive observations. Oh, look, they're worse than your average bear at passing yardage. Oh, look, it doesn't matter because they score almost 40 points every game. Oh, look, they're vulnerable to sacks. Oh, right. We don't believe in sacks.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 1 38.14 Alabama 38.14 1 Alabama 38.14
Pass Efficiency Defense 2 84.91 Michigan St. 84.35 1 Alabama 84.91
Total Defense 1 184.14 Alabama 184.14 1 Alabama 184.14
Scoring Defense 1 7.00 Alabama 7.00 1 Alabama 7.00
Pass Defense 5 146.00 Michigan St. 119.17 2 South Carolina 133.71
Sacks 46 2.14 Texas A&M 4.33 1 Alabama 2.14
Tackles For Loss 10 8.14 Marshall 9.57 1 Alabama 8.14

Defensive observations. This is where you either run screaming back into the poppy field or stand there trembling and hope that Toto saves the day with the big reveal that it's all just a small man with buttons and levers and smoke and mirrors.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Net Punting 69 36.48 UTEP 44.09 10 Kentucky 41.43
Punt Returns 17 13.00 Ole Miss 31.71 3 Ole Miss 31.71
Kickoff Returns 12 26.33 Temple 29.60 1 Alabama 26.33
Turnover Margin T-20 .71 Rutgers 2.17 3 LSU 1.86

Special teams and turnovers observations. This is where we hope that Devrin Young is our Toto.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
ALL OF THEM

This is where you slap your knee at my awesome joke.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Trent Richardson 4 130.29
Eddie Lacy T-76 69.83
Jalston Fowler 43.14
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) A.J. McCarron 32 148.63
Total Offense A.J. McCarron 77 193.43
Trent Richardson 130.29
Eddie Lacy 69.83
Receptions Per Game Marquis Maze T-79 4.86
Receiving Yards Per Game Marquis Maze 53.71
Scoring Trent Richardson 3 13.71
Jeremy Shelley T-36 8.86
Eddie Lacy 5.00

Offensive Observations. Summary: Trent Richardson is awesome and A.J. McCarron is efficient. Seriously, Bill Connely is right. You load up to try to stop Richardson and take your chances in the passing game. So expect Tennessee's safeties to crowd the line again and the corners to be tested in single coverage. Best shot, even if the corners get beat again and it doesn't work all game.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions DeMarcus Milliner .29
Sacks Courtney Upshaw T-80 .50
Nick Gentry .36
DeQuan Menzie .21
Tackles
Tackles For Loss Courtney Upshaw T-17 1.50
Dont'a Hightower .71
Ed Stinson .71

Defense. I wonder what it is about these guys because apart from senior LB Courtney Upshaw, no individual is really standing out nationally on a defense that is, as a unit, best in the nation. Equal distribution of wealth, perhaps? Is Nick Saban really a communist?

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game)
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Marquis Maze 16 13.36
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game)
Field Goals Jeremy Shelley T-44 1.29
All-Purpose Runners Trent Richardson 15 162.00
Marquis Maze 43 131.29
Eddie Lacy 84.67

Special teams. I was fixing to say that it really wasn't fair to have Richardson returning kicks, too, but he's only attempted two all year. Marquis Maze is dangerous returning punts, but it's not like we're 110th in net punting or anything. We just have to not punt is all.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo Alabama Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. Alabama rush defense 89
(#114)
38.14
(#1)
LSU
(75.14)
(#6)
111 70
UT pass v. Alabama pass defense 294
(#25)
146
(#5)
Florida
(168.43)
(#10)
288 150
Alabama rush v. UT rush defense 159.67
(#69)
241.57
(#12)
LSU
(194.43)
(#29)
260 260
Alabama pass v. UT pass defense 190.67
(#24)
219
(#72)
Cincinnati
(208)
(#82)
230 220
UT scoring offense v. Alabama scoring defense 28.33
(#62)
7
(#1)
LSU
(11.71)
(7)
7 7
Alabama scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 23.33
(#44)
39.71
(#14)
LSU
(38.43)
(20)
38 41

As always, these are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations, and the general analytical framework is this: We are averaging X in a certain category. The opponent averages Y against that, which is most closely comparable to some identified previous opponent, against whom we did Z. All of that leads to an informed guess labeled as Prediction. The less data you have, the more sketchy the guess, and the guesses range from ALL CAPS SKETCHY WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS at the beginning of the season to merely lower case sketchy for the last game.

This week's example: On average, we're running for 89 yards per game. Alabama is holding opponents to less than half that. The closest comp is LSU, which is holding opponents to 75.14. Against the Tigers, Tennessee got 111, which was perhaps a result of a stronger focus on the running game with Matt Simms at QB. So with all of that, our informed guess is 70 rushing yards for the Vols. Expecting a team ranked 114th nationally to get more on the ground than the #1 team is allowing may be foolhardy, but I think it's our only shot, and that last week is more an indicator of who we are now than were the previous weeks. So yeah, 70 yards rushing, best guess.

And yeah, I'm guessing Tennessee's total yards is roughly equal to Alabama's passing yards and less than their rushing yards.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • This is going to be a tough game for UT, and not tough in the sense of it being difficult to win. It's going to be hard on morale, so keep it if you can.
  • LSU's schedule appears to be a bit stronger than Alabama's to date. They've both played and beaten Florida. Alabama's beaten Arkansas, and LSU's beaten Oregon. The difference is LSU's win over West Virginia as compared to 'Bama's win over Penn State. Still, the difference is marginal, and the Tide's numbers are still better in most departments.
  • If there's a soft spot on this Alabama team, it's in the passing game when they have the ball. They are still efficient, but they're not putting up a lot of passing yards. Then again, they don't have to because Trent Richardson is a ball hog.
  • I'm not prone to hyperbole, but this may be the best defense we've seen in a decade. Best in the nation against the run, top five against the pass. Averaging a single TD per game.
  • Part of what makes the Tide such a difficult opponent is that they are truly a team. Apart from Richardson, no one else really stands out. It's like that frightening Prius commercial where a bunch of people fit together to make a big, freaky looking clump of stuff that sorta looks like a giant body but makes you go, "WHAT IS THAT THING? I NEVER WANT A PRIUS BECAUSE OF THIS COMMERCIAL!" Call it Nightmare Synergy.

Predictions

  • Alabama 41, Tennessee 7.
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