The Rocky Top Talk staff went 1-6 both straight up and against the spread two weeks ago when the Vols faced off about Georgia, and they're not too unhappy about it. Closest to the Pin, however, doesn't go to the one winner but to Nathanael, who correctly predicted a high-scoring, close game. His 33-30 Georgia prediction was just 10 points off on the final margin and six points off on the final total. But we have to give a shoutout to Hunter, who picked the Vols to win a 24-23 contest. Miles off on the total, but when you're the only one to pick the winner, you get your name in this space. Good work. But beating both of them in the comments was TennVol95 in 3D!, who called a 35-24 win for the men in smokey gray, coming in just four points off of the final margin and ten off of the total. On the plus side, TennVol also predicted a win over Alabama. On the minus side, that prediction required wearing smokey gray in Tuscaloosa.
Speaking of Tuscaloosa, it's time for the Vols' toughest test of the season in rival Alabama. The #8 Tide actually have their worst ranking coming into the Third Saturday in October since 2010, when #8 Alabama, having already lost by double-digits to Stephen Garcia, blew the doors off Dooley's first team, 41-10. Can the Vols expect better this week? On to the picks!
I_S (3-3 straight up, 3-3 against the spread): It's not hard to pick a winner here, but it's a little tricky to predict how the game will go. On one hand, there are a lot of miscellaneous factors pointing pretty strongly in Tennessee's favor here. They're coming off a bye week, where a coaching staff that excels at game prep has traditionally been strong (2-2 straight up, 3-1 ATS since being at UT). Whereas Alabama will be playing their eighth straight game (and fourth straight game against a non-Vandy/Carolina SEC opponent). Their next game, following a bye, is against LSU, likely with a trip to Atlanta at stake. Tennessee should be especially prepared, and Alabama is as likely to be as tired or distracted as they've been all year.
- On offense, the Vols play their most creative and efficient game of the season: Josh Dobbs throws for 200 yards and rushes for another 100, Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara keep the chains moving inside and break the occasional run to the outside for 150 combined yards, Preston Williams has a coming out party by scoring on two long plays against single coverage, and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord dials up a few trick plays to convert in the red zone.
- On defense, Kahlil McKenzie and Derek Barnett battle Alabama's offensive line to a draw, and Tennessee's linebackers, led by JRM and Darrin Kirkland, tackle better than they have all year. In the secondary, Lane Kiffin goes back to his favorite player Calvin Ridley a few too many times and Todd Kelly, Jr. makes him pay with a pair of interceptions, one of which he returns for a touchdown.
- On special teams, Evan Berry gives the Vols consistently great field position while holding onto the ball like it's a winning lottery ticket. Cam Sutton weaves his way though the defense and takes a punt return to the house.
- Butch Jones accidentally ingests a pill given to him by Les Miles at the SEC Annual Meeting (aw, that ain't nothin' but your standard Cajun Pick Me Up) and subsequently coaches like his hair is on fire-- the Vols come out with an extremely aggressive gameplan, play disciplined football, and manage the clock appropriately. Tennessee 31 Alabama 30.