I have a theory, you guys. You're not going to like it, but I have a theory.
I think Lane Kiffin is a Tennessee sleeper agent.
I know, right? You don't like it. But think about it: what were Alabama's best offensive games of the season (non-doormat divisions)? West Virginia, Florida, and Texas A&M. That West Virginia game needed to be strong because you've gotta make Alabama fans think you're in it for them. Kiffin's had it in for Florida since he wanted to sing Rocky Top all night long, and if you don't think it's a coincidence the Alabama offense unloaded right before playing Tennessee, I don't know what to tell you.
Just remember: when Kiffin punches Nick Saban in the face halfway through the fourth quarter, rips off his headset and shacket to reveal Tennessee orange, and runs across the field yelling the words to Rocky Top at the top of his lungs, you heard it here first.
Of course, if you're going to be a proper Tennessee sleeper agent, you've got to put together a game plan that might be halfway effective, but shoot itself in the foot just enough to stall drives out. How's Kiffin going to do that?
BADLY DEPLOY RUNNING BACKS
So Alabama has three running backs (plus Blake Sims) who basically average five yards a carry. They're interchangeable, because that's how this works. So it's simple: find the guy who can't get traction against the Tennessee front seven and ride him into the ground. Derrick Henry (aka El Tractorcito) rolled against Florida and Texas A&M. TJ Yeldon seems to be on the good game/bad game track; Tennessee's a bad game. Kenyan Drake is Sir Not Appearing In This Game (get well soon). Blake Sims will run given the chance.
Your game plan from Lane Kiffin: 45 carries for TJ Yeldon and no zone reads. Make it happen.
For the Tennessee front four: maybe act like you can't get off a couple of blocks early on first down so the Tide get a little confidence before you shut them down. Every little bit helps.
Of course, Alabama has one passing weapon.
YEAH, JUST THROW IT TO AMARI COOPER EIGHTY-FIVE TIMES
Cooper's really, really good. Cam Sutton's turning in the kind of season that'll get him first-team All-SEC consideration with a side of enjoy next season because that's going to be all we get. (Granted, Cooper's a likely first-round pick, too.) Alabama's passing game plan is "yeah, I guess Cooper can catch this", so that'll be on Cam Sutton to figure out a way to stop him.
This will be made easier when Kiffin coaches Cooper to not really worry about Sutton and to not worry about working back for any potential errant passes because Sutton doesn't have hands worth anything.
Wait, no: hang on, this scares me. Hang on, let's try this section again.
YEAH, JUST THROW IT TO THE OTHER WIDE RECEIVERS EIGHTY-FIVE TIMES
There we go. You've got to have balance in your passing game, right? Ignore Amari Cooper. You know he's good. What about everyone else? You don't know. Why not pick the Tennessee game to find out? These will be the questions Kiffin's going to place in Blake Sims' head as he totally ignores Amari Cooper for the entire game. Besides, Cam Sutton's good! Why risk it?
(I'd include making sure matchup nightmare O.J. Howard is also ignored, but honestly he's already doing a pretty good job of that.)
BUT WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT THE DEFENSE?
Yeah, so this is where this falls apart. Alabama's defense is still plenty good enough to stifle Tennessee's running game (by which I mean they have warm bodies), and at this point we've seen Tennessee's run blocking game enough to just kind of skip ahed and mark this as "ugly". Jalen Hurd is good, but with that being said the adjustment between high school and college is easier when you're not going 1-vs-11.
Alabama's pass defense has been sneakily not-as-strong-as-the-run-defense, which is to say they're still good. (However, they aren't as strong as Tennessee's secondary statistically so far this year and what is this brand new world we're living in?) Tennessee's to the point where someone needs to step up as a secondary receiving threat to keep Marquez North from getting overly bracketed with a side of Justin Worley openly willing to look elsewhere. 6.0 yards per attempt allowed is the mark of a good defense, and once again we're just going to wave our hands and ignore Tennessee's quarterback numbers. But hey, Worley's over 6 yards per attempt this year!
Remember that if he can't go, by the way.
Regardless: this team isn't winning against elite teams unless at least a couple of things we haven't seen yet this season happen. One of those things is another team falling asleep against us for more than a half. (Georgia slept the first quarter away, I'm pretty sure.) That's why we have the trump card. That's why we're getting irrational.
That's why we have Lane Kiffin, Sleeper Agent. Make us proud.