The weather is getting cooler outside. The leaves are changing colors. Days are getting shorter.
That must mean we’re approaching the Third Saturday in October, no?
Oh yes, that’s exactly what this means. Even though it’s lost quite a bit of luster over the years, it’s still fun to gear up for the perennial showdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Tennessee heads into this game with a lot of momentum after beating Mississippi State last week, but it will take more than just momentum to beat Alabama.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s a great opportunity for the Vols to continue to grow and try and rectify what has been a very disappointing year.
The 2019 season was looking bleaker than ever up until Tennessee’s 20-10 win over Mississippi State.
The Vols only attempted 14 passes on the day, but were able to grind out 190 yards on the ground. A stifling defense held Kylin Hill to 16 measly yards on the ground and picked off Bulldog quarterbacks three times.
Tennessee still has a long way to go, but last week’s win now opens the door for potential wins against the Kentuckys, UABs, and Vanderbilts of the world.
What it doesn’t do, however, is open the door for a win against Alabama. Frankly, the Vols are still likely to be miles away from even competing with the Crimson Tide.
This game doesn’t bode well for Tennessee. Alabama is a matchup nightmare, to say the least. Najee Harris is a stud running back and the offensive line is one of the better lines in the country. Bama can pound the Vols up front and if that doesn’t work, they have one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Tua Tagovailoa to air it out.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the wide receivers. These guys are legitimate studs. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and Devonta Smith are sure to give the Vols’ secondary fits on Saturday.
If Brian Maurer can play, it will be a big help. The Vols will need his mobility. Alabama isn’t what it typically is on defense, but you can see the improvement each week. Nick Saban’s group will eventually get there and I’m sure they’re looking at this week as an opportunity to take a big step forward.
Tennessee will be hard pressed to find much of anything in this game, but hey, you don’t play the game on paper, right?
What To Watch For
- Stay competitive and healthy: It’ll be a good day if the Vols are somewhat-competitive and can stay healthy.
- Tennessee’s secondary vs. Bama’s receivers: This could get really ugly, really fast. It will be the biggest test of the season for the secondary.
- Najee Harris vs. Tennessee’s run defense: The Vols shut down Kylin Hill last week, can they do the same with Harris?
- Whoever plays quarterback: Hopefully it’s Maurer, but what if it’s Jarrett Guarantano? Will he be able to provide some type of spark?
- Trey Smith: He looks like he is officially back. What better time to have his best game of the year than against these guys?
- QB Brian Maurer: If the kid can go, then this will be a tremendous opportunity for growth.
- Tennessee’s running backs: They will need to keep the ball away from Alabama and the ground game is the best way to do so.
- WR Jauan Jennings: Tennessee’s dog will need to eat on Saturday.
- The defensive line: They will be crucial to keeping Tagovailoa off rhythm.
- LB Quavaris Crouch: Henry To’o To’o will miss the first half of the game, so Crouch will need to play well in his absence.
- The secondary: Alabama’s receiving corps is one of the best in the country.
Alabama Crimson Tide
- QB Tua Tagovailoa: If you don’t know who this kid is by now, then I can’t help you.
- WR Jerry Jeudy: He is arguably the best receiver in the country.
- WR Henry Ruggs III: This dude is ridiculously fast and will be a headache all day on Saturday.
- LB Anfernee Jennings: Bama’s sack leader will be a handful.
- LB Terrell Lewis: He’s coming along nicely, which will continue to be a huge boost for the defense.
- CB Patrick Surtain II: Will he grab his second pick of the season against the Vols?
I’m usually a glass half-full type of guy, but all the liquid in the world couldn’t fill half my glass for this one.
Optimism is great and all, but realism is a better tool to use in the real world. I’ll be hoping the Vols can pull this one out, but I also know there is very, very little chance of that happening.
Tennessee gets creamed in this one, unfortunately, before heading into the lighter part of the remaining schedule.