Sometimes these are a whole lot of fun. Sometimes they're not. Alabama pretty well dominated Tennessee, and it can be hard to draw conclusions when there's such a talent mismatch. But we'll give it our best shot.
- Kick coverage. Tennessee's kick coverage has on the whole been very strong this season, but the Tide returned a pair of kickoffs beyond the 40. Special teams needs to go back to being a strength pronto if the Vols have their minds on an upset in either of the next two weeks.
- Starting fast. Even when outmatched this season, Tennessee has started strong. The Vols scored the first touchdown against both Oregon and Florida, the only two teams prior to this weekend who beat Tennessee in regulation. Saturday, that didn't happen. Alabama led 35-0 at halftime. Just keeping it close for a half wouldn't have really been a huge sign of progress, but it would've been better than not keeping it close for a half.
- Josh Dobbs. This is the first we've seen of either true freshman quarterback, and while he didn't light the world on fire, Dobbs looked quite capable. His stat line (5/12 for 75 yards) won't impress, and he had trouble getting the play in on time in a couple cases, but he made good decisions and generally accurate throws. And led the first touchdown drive all season against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, so that's something. There were a couple throws that weren't dead on the money, but I don't remember any that were egregiously bad either (unless his last throw wasn't a throwaway. It looked like a throwaway). A couple good throws were dropped (both on third downs, to boot), which will hurt the stats, but he looked promising. Tucking and running three times for 19 yards doesn't hurt either. Even in Bryant-Denny, playing garbage time minutes against a conservative defense isn't a big pressure situation, so it may be a bit early to anoint him the next Heisman runner-up, but the early returns look good.
- Defending the perimeter. This will continue to be a problem until the talent improves. Which it should. A key tackle on the very first drive of the game was missed by a walk-on running back. It led to a touchdown. A touchdown on which the nearest defender chasing the receiver down the sideline was defensive end Corey Miller. Yeesh. You're better off having 5-star backups like Alabama than starting offensive walk-ons on defense. And this is not to bash on Jaron Toney, who's done a lot to get where he is. But there are a lot of guys starting right now who don't start if Tennessee's defense is at 90s caliber. He's not the only one, but he's among them. So it should come as no surprise defending the perimeter was a problem again. Alabama made far too much after the catch on short sideline throws, and there were multiple instances where T.J. Yeldon was completely stacked up at the line of scrimmage only to realize that he could just bounce outside and run around all the plugged holes.
- Michael Palardy. He continues to be farther from a problem than Vols fans could've imagined. There weren't many Vols with banner days Saturday, but Palardy dropped a pair of punts inside the three and put three of five inside the 20. He also made his only field goal attempt. That'll do.