Over the past few weeks, we've listed 3 reasons the Vols should beat the Gamecocks in 2015, 3 reasons the Vols should beat the Razorbacks, 3 they should beat the Sooners and 3 they should beat the Gators. And we've gone on to list 3 reasons the Vols could beat the Bulldogs and 3 reasons they could beat Missouri. We're not going to go over Bowling Green, Western Carolina, Kentucky, North Texas, or Vandy because hey, all the reasons are we are us and they are them.
So what do we do with Alabama? We roll the dice on one solid reason that could make a difference and lead to a Vols victory this year. That's all we need. One good reason.
So here's the argument, and it starts with a bunch of concessions.
Since 2008, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have been on a seven-year rampage through the SEC and the rest of the college football landscape. No, they haven't won them all, and they haven't won the past seven national championships, but they have won three. The Despicables have averaged 12 wins per season in that time.
And sure, they are loaded. They're #1 in our magazine's four-year rolling recruiting rankings again this year. Like they were in 2014. And like they would have been in 2013 if we would have had room to include it. And yeah, 2012 was their year, too.
They are consistently the absolute best recruiters, bar none.
So why don't they win every game?
Well for one, talent matters . . . a lot . . . but it's not everything. Experience matters, too. And when you're that loaded with talent, even your blue chips have to wait to earn experience.
This season, Alabama only returns 11 starters, which actually makes them one of the least experienced teams in the nation, at least in terms of starters. QB Blake Sims is gone. Linebackers Xzavier Dickson and Trey Depriest are gone. Wide receiver Christion Jones, gone. Not one, not two, but three offensive linemen, gone. Running back T.J. Yeldon, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive back Landon Collins are all gone, gone, gone to the NFL.
Yeah, Saban can just go grab a ladder and cherry pick some more choice fruit off his grove of magic trees, but what he brings back in his basket isn't going to feature many starts. And I think starts matter.
Contrast that with Tennessee, who out of necessity had to give its class of four- and five-stars significant playing time and experience all of last year. Alabama's recruiting classes were ranked first in 2014 and second in 2015, but Tennessee's were right behind them (fifth) both times. And while their guys were practicing and cheering and getting a little relief and garbage time, our guys were getting rep after rep after rep of real game experience. And the Vols are still in such need of talent that many of our 2015 class will have half a seasons' worth of starting experience by the time the 'Bama game rolls around.
Does experience matter? Does it matter enough to overcome a depth disadvantage?
Maybe, maybe not, but it could be just the thing that helps the Vols beat the Tide this October.