It certainly won’t be the third Saturday in October when the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2) take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) this weekend, but the game will mean just the same as the Vols look to upset the Tide and get their season back on track.
Here’s what you should know.
Once again, this matchup features two programs heading in opposite directions. Alabama just keeps chugging along, while Tennessee is trying to find their way once again. The Volunteers started 2-0, but things went south from there. Georgia and Kentucky handed Tennessee their first two losses of the season in convincing fashion.
The Crimson Tide lead the overall series, 56-38-7. They’re currently on a 13 game winning streak in the series, dating all the way back to 2007.
Alabama current sits as a 20 point favorite.
What To Watch For
- What in the world will Tennessee do at quarterback? We saw three guys under center for Tennessee against Kentucky and Jeremy Pruitt hasn’t committed to anyone so far this week. Will it be Jarrett Guarantano again? Is Brian Maurer healthy and ready for his shot? Or will Tennessee start the Harrison Bailey era? Where does J.T. Shrout fit?
- Above everything else, Tennessee must improve things on the turnover front. Seven turnovers in the last three halves of football won’t allow you to beat anyone, much less Alabama.
- How will the Crimson Tide play after a massive win over Georgia? It was the early ‘game of the year’ in the college football world, so Tennessee could be catching Alabama in a letdown spot.
- Can Tennessee take advantage of a below average Alabama defense? The Tide ranks just 61st of 77 total teams in total defense so far in 2020. Alabama pitched a shutout in the second half against Georgia just one week after giving up 647 yards to Ole Miss, so which effort will Tennessee get on Saturday?
- RB Eric Gray: Gray doubled the amount of carries that Ty Chandler saw against Kentucky, clearly the more effective back against the Wildcats. Expect Gray to handle plenty of work in the passing game as well.
- WR Josh Palmer: Palmer needs to be more involved in this passing attack as the clear WR1. Tennessee is going to have to keep pace, so look for Palmer to get a ton of action here.
- LB Henry To’o To’o: What else can you say about this guy? He’s usually the best player on the field and badly needs some help from his offense. Expect lots of collisions with To’o To’o and Najee Harrison on Saturday.
- Edge Deandre Johnson: Alabama loves to throw the ball these days, so getting some pressure will be vital. Johnson is one of the few players that can win a one on one matchup for the Volunteers.
- QB Mac Jones: 90-115, 1,518 yards. 12 TDs, 2 INTs.
- RB Najee Harris: 83 carries for 499 yards, 6.0 YPC.
- WR DeVonta Smith: 38 rec. for 483 yards, 4 TDs.
- WR Jaylen Waddle: 25 rec. for 557 yards, 4 TDs.
We might as well put the entire Alabama offensive line and receiver John Metchie III on here too. Point is, Alabama is a well-oiled machine on this side of the ball, fresh off of scoring 41 points on what many consider to be the best defense in the land. Not much needs to be said here — Tennessee is going to have its hands full on every level Saturday.
We’ll see if they can produce a similar result from last year, which was one of the better defensive performances from any team against Alabama in 2019.
However, this offense may be more complete. They can line up and run through you, but you better not bring the safeties down because they’ll go right over the top.
Injuries To Monitor (non-COVID related)
OT Wanya Morris: Pruitt called him ‘day to day’ on Monday with an ankle injury.
QB Jarrett Guarantano: Was described as ‘banged up’ this week. Tennessee has repped multiple quarterbacks with the first team.
QB Brian Maurer: Hamstring, knee
CB Alontae Taylor: Gametime decision
LB Jeremy Banks: Gametime decision
DE LaBryan Ray: Questionable (Elbow)
TE Carl Tucker: Questionable (Hamstring)
Alabama is a three touchdown favorite for a reason, and they seem to be catching Tennessee at the best possible time. We’ll see what the Vols do at quarterback, but either way, it doesn’t seem like Tennessee has the firepower to keep up.
Pruitt gave Saban his best shot in 2019, and you know how badly he wants this one, but I’d be surprised if the Tennessee offense is ready to compete for the win on Saturday.