Pig Howard and the offense celebrate his touchdown during the Vols upset victory over South Carolina on Saturday (Photo Credit: Rockytoptalk.com)
Last Saturday the Tennessee Volunteers ended a long standing streak that dated back to late 2009 of losing to ranked opponents. This week, they’ll have the opportunity to end not just one streak, but four.
While they Vols are surely riding high off their big victory over South Carolina last week, the harsh reality is they will travel to face an undefeated Alabama team (7-0, 4-0) that has won three of the last four national championships, and lost only seven games dating back to the 2008 season. Under head coach Nick Saban, who took over the Tide in 2007, Alabama is 70-13.
The Vols and No. 1 Tide will face off at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26 on CBS. It will mark the 96th all-time meeting between the two schools, a series in which Alabama has won the past six contests. If Tennessee could pull off the upset it would not only mark their first victory over Alabama since 2006, but their first win over the No. 1 ranked team since defeating No. 1 Auburn on Sept. 28, 1985.
A win Saturday would also mark the Vols first win on the road since defeating Vanderbilt in 2010, and their first road victory in October since defeating Mississippi State in October of 2007.
In order for Tennessee to have a fighting chance against the back-to-back reigning national champions, their offense will have to arise to the challenge of pressuring the Tide’s defense, the staple of their program. Through seven games Alabama has only allowed opponents to reach the red zone 11 times, and even when they reach it they’ve only been able to capitalize seven times.
The Vols will also have to remain consistent in the second half if they wish to pull off the upset. The margin of victory for the Tide over the Vols the past three years has been consistently by 31 points. This is largely due in part to Tennessee’s lack of production in the second half as twice they were shutout, and only once put up three points in the second half. In fact, Alabama’s average lead over the Vols going into halftime the last three years has only been by just over five points per game, including 2011 when the two were tied 6-6 going into the half.
Tennessee’s victory over South Carolina put them just two victories shy of their first bowl bid since 2010. If they were to continue the streak and upset their crimson rivals to the south on Saturday, working towards a bowl bid would be the least of their worries.