No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) @ Tennessee (3-3, 0-3)
Saturday, October 20th, 6 p.m. CDT, ESPN
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Overview: In the 90th meeting between these two schools, Alabama will put it’s unbeaten record on the line against a reeling Tennessee squad on Saturday. Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley is on the hot seat now that his team has begun their SEC schedule with three straight losses. There’s a high amount of familiarity between the two squads. Dooley formerly coached under Nick Saban and Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, whose son is Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, coached linebackers for the Crimson Tide the last three seasons. Sal has since been replaced by Lance Thompson, who was at Tennessee for those same three years after being an assistant at Alabama from ’07 to ’08. Tide fans can think back to Terrence Cody’s two field goal blocks in 2009 that preserved a 12-10 win for Alabama to remind them of how close the games between these two rivals can be.
UA offense vs. UT defense: After giving Crimson Tide fans quite a scare when he went down in the third quarter of last Saturday’s Missouri game, AJ McCarron will be slightly hobbled and will wear a brace on his bruised knee against the Vols. McCarron enters Saturday’s contest having completed a school-record 227 passes in a row without an interception. Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon are coming off their best performances of the season, having combined for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 18 carries apiece last week. Cyrus Jones has been taking more snaps in the slot at practice this week because of injuries to the receiving corp. Tennessee’s defense is giving up an average of 31.5 points per game and 429.9 yards per game, putting them at next-to-last in the SEC in total defense.
UA defense vs. UT offense: Alabama’s defense comes into this game ranked No. 1 in every major statistical category: scoring defense, total defense, pass defense, rush defense, and pass efficiency defense, and also holds the edge in red zone defense and fewest first downs allowed. The unit is tied also for first in turnover margin, having scored 91 points off 17 turnovers this season. Volunteers starting quarterback Tyler Bray will be the best passer the Tide defense has seen this season. Bray has thrown a conference-best 17 touchdowns and has only been sacked three times. C.J. Mosley has become the leader of this Alabama defense, having totaled 51 tackles this season, one short of doubling the second-best mark of 26 by Nico Johnson. Mosley is coming off a week in which he was named the Southeastern Conference player of the week after a team-high 12 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and a quarterback pressure against Missouri, whom the Crimson Tide limited to just three rushing yards for the game. Ed Stinson is showing his worth in the pass rush and now leads the team with seven tackles for loss. Tennessee is ranked 22nd in total offense with 482.3 yards per game and tied for 24th with 38 points per game.
Summary: Tennessee’s offense is the most prolific the Tide will have seen this season, and Tyler Bray will put the Alabama secondary to the test. The Crimson Tide clearly has the advantage when its offense is on the field, but how much will the injuries to skill players affect the offensive output? Spreading the wealth has been the name of the game for the Tide offense so far this season, so we’ll see who steps up. Alabama’s discipline will be the difference.
My prediction: Alabama 34, Tennessee 13