And now we’re onto Alabama. The Tennessee Volunteers are 5-0, passing every test to this point. They’ve won every “swing” game to this point, picking up road wins at Pittsburgh, at LSU and then beating Florida in Knoxville.
The very scenario that Tennessee fans dreamed about this summer has come true — undefeated Tennessee against undefeated Alabama at Neyland Stadium. Things have gotten very real over the past couple of weeks, and it’s now all on the table for these Volunteers.
Now, can they beat Alabama for the first time since 2006? That’s the next hurdle for Josh Heupel and his emerging Tennessee program. Beating Nick Saban is far from the expectation with where this team has been in recent years, but now, with Hendon Hooker playing at this level, it’s a real possibility.
Josh Heupel’s year one team stuck around with Alabama last year in Tuscaloosa, but the floodgates opened in the fourth quarter. This Tennessee team feels like they’ve closed the gap significantly since then, and the injury situation surrounding Alabama quarterback Bryce Young certainly adds another layer of drama.
Young exited the Arkansas game with a shoulder injury and ended up missing the Texas A&M game this weekend. Alabama just barely escaped, struggling offensively with Jalen Milroe running the show.
Young’s status will be in question all week long, and Nick Saban likely won’t give too many answers. Young was in pads and dressed out for Saturday’s game, but didn’t play.
“He’s been very supportive all week of helping Jalen every way that he can, but he also wants to play,” Saban said. “He actually wanted to play at the end of the game.
“We’ll just see what kind of progress Bryce makes for the next week.”
Tennessee is also hoping to get star receiver Cedric Tillman back for the matchup. Tillman has missed the last two games — three weeks total now — with a high ankle sprain.
Plain and simple, this is the biggest game since the SEC Championship in 2007 for Tennessee. This result sets the table for the rest of the season.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
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