Preview: Alabama vs Tennessee

Preview of the Alabama vs Tennessee game.

Preview of the Alabama vs Tennessee game.

Tennessee wants to become as competitive as Alabama

By Dave Friedman

There was a time that a ticket to the Tennessee vs. Alabama game was among the most coveted in college sports. Since Robert Neyland coached the Vols, and Wallace Wade led Alabama, fans have gone through every obstacle imaginable to see the two powerhouses square off. However, while Saturday’s matchup at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be sold out, it will lack the number of folks wearing orange to which the rivalry has been accustomed. Five straight sub-par seasons for Tennessee since the firing of coach Phil Fulmer has sapped the enthusiasm of Volunteer fans despite a 23-21 upset victory over South Carolina last week. On their fourth coach in six seasons, Tennessee fans returned a portion of their ticket allotment to Alabama earlier this week. Nonetheless, the Vols are playing well, and ‘Bama remains unbeaten, ranked number one, and seeking its third straight National Title.

Last week’s win over South Carolina was the first Tennessee victory over a ranked opponent since 2009. It was their first win over a team ranked among the Top 10 in the coaches poll since 2006. At 4-3, Tennessee is above .500 after seven games for the first time since 2007. First year coach Butch Jones knows where his program has been, and looks at Alabama as the model for where it is headed.

“The one thing you can say about their program is it is what we are building here at Tennessee,” said Jones. “It is based on competition, it is a competitive environment every day when you walk in there; that is what we are building here at Tennessee.”

While the Alabama has won six straight against Tennessee including last years 44-13 victory in Knoxville, the last two weeks the Vols have looked like a different team. After starting SEC play 0-5 each of the last three seasons, this year Tennessee lost a competitive 31-17 battle at Florida September 21, fell to Georgia 34-31 in overtime October 5, and last week clipped South Carolina. Alabama coach Nick Saban sees signs of progress from his rival.

“Tennessee is emerging as a very good football team in the last two weeks,” Saban said. “I think Butch Jones has done an outstanding job there. When a team improves like they’ve improved, it’s always a sign of good coaching, good coaching staff and a lot of people doing a very, very good job”

If the Vols have an Achilles heel, it is turnovers. They gave the ball away six times against Florida, and fumbled in overtime during the loss to Georgia. Tennessee is 3-0 when they win the battle of turnovers, and 0-3 when they have more giveaways than takeaways. When the Vols went 5-7 last year, they were -4 in turnover margin

While turnovers can be hard to predict, most of last season Tennessee struggling in coverage was a foregone conclusion. Last October three quarterbacks set career highs in passing yards against the Vols. However, this season the Tennessee defense has stiffened. Aaron Murray of Georgia and Connor Shaw of South Carolina were held under 200 yards through the air. With 12 interceptions this year, Jones is feeling good about his corners.

“I think they’re playing with a very high level of confidence, but again, we’re going to be challenged [by Alabama,] said Jones “Its all team defense. We were able to generate pressure on the quarterback [against South Carolina], and it goes hand in hand. Great secondary play is usually linked amongst winning up front and winning your one-on-one matchups.”

The Vols will have their hands full with Alabama. The Crimson Tide is averaging more than 40 points a game while giving up an NCAA best 9.7 points per contest. Alabama yielded one touchdown since its 49-42 win over Texas A&M on September 14. Since that game Alabama has outscored their opposition 201-16, and held opponents to just over 225 yards a game. Last Saturday Alabama blanked Arkansas 52-0. The Razorbacks were seven for 25 in passing attempts totaling 91 yards through the air. The Crimson Tide has not allowed a touchdown in any of their four home games this year.

“We pride ourselves on being a tough, relentless defense and we got it done tonight,” said Tide corner Deion Belue following the Arkansas game. “Having a zero at the end of the game is going to feel great. We come in to play great defense”

On offense Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron has tossed 14 touchdowns while being intercepted three times and is completing 69-percent of his throws. TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake have combined to rush for 1,059 yards and 14 scores while averaging more than seven yards a carry.

The Vols have lost nine straight conference road games. The last time they knocked off the number one team in the country was September 28, 1985 against Auburn.

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11 Responses to “Preview: Alabama vs Tennessee” Subscribe

  1. The Conduit October 23, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Tennessee is the least-penalized team in the SEC. I think that stat alone says a lot about what Butch Jones has already been able to accomplish with his roster.

    I don’t hate Tennessee as much as I think I’m supposed to. That doesn’t mean I want them to win, but the way I’ve seen them playing football and changing their culture, they’re doing it the right way. Maybe that’s a result of being so big for so long or maybe it’s from being so bad for so long, but don’t forget Tennessee still has the greatest number of wins over Alabama and by a big margin. Tennessee wasn’t once elite; they were often elite.

    But I don’t think they have the Tide’s number. If Alabama plays the way they’ve improved each Saturday, Tennessee will go down by halftime. I still worry about injuries, especially for AJ McCarron as UT’s linemen are brutal and their linebackers have incredible vision.

    But for as much discipline, tenacity, power and size as Tennessee has, Alabama looks like it has more.

    I’m really excited for this game. I’m glad we get to keep the rivalry, and UT is building the right way. I can’t pretend I’m not excited about smoking my cigar Saturday night and being able to say we’ve beaten Tennessee 7 years in a row. Roll Tide.

  2. AUtiger47 October 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Saban’s wife has been spotted house shopping in Austin. Enjoy the link!

    http://www.burntorangenation.com/2013/10/23/4987356/the-nick-saban-to-texas-rumors-are-strengthening

    • Capstone Report October 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      ROFL, house hunting? Another year and another house hunting post?

      You are going to have to do better than that for anyone to take it seriously. Nick Saban and Terry Saban are not house hunting.

      Now, if a job opened up in Dallas….well, maybe then you might get Nick’s interest in moving to Texas since that job already has an established QB (and if you ask me, that is the most important factor in ever trying to lure Saban back to the NFL.)

    • Crassus October 27, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

      Dickskinner, the author of that piece has already admitted that he wrote it as a joke. The dumbass editor of the Burnt Orange blog thought it was the real deal and ran with it.

  3. peachy October 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Dont be surprised if he does leave. Shits hitting the fan in Tuscaloosa. Just had ANOTHER player suspended.

    http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2013/10/alabama_reserve_defensive_end.html

    Alabama defensive end LaMichael Fanning, who did not dress for Saturday’s game against Arkansas and hasn’t been spotted at practice for a week, has been indefinitely suspended for violation of team rules, coach Nick Saban said Wednesday.

    “He’s not around,” Saban said.

    Fanning saw sparse playing time in four games this season and came away with three tackles. He experimented a bit at the tight end position during preseason camp before ultimately moving back to defensive end midway through August.

    He was listed as a third-string defensive end behind Ed Stinson and A’Shawn Robinson.

    A four-star prospect from Hamilton, Ga., Fanning played his final year of high school ball at Auburn high. He redshirted his first season at Alabama and saw occasional work with the reserve defensive line in 2012. Though highlights of his suplex tackle of Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough went viral, Fanning apologized with a letter to Hansbrough and did not travel to Alabama’s next game.

    Fanning is the sixth player to be officially suspended since the start of August camp. The previous five — tight end Malcolm Faciane (30 days), cornerback Geno Smith (one game), linebacker Trey DePriest (one week of practice), running back T.J. Yeldon (first quarter of one game) and safety HaHa Clinton-Dix (two games) — were initially suspended with an indefinite timetable before returning to Saban’s good graces

    • pete4tide October 28, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      Peach – Really? This is the first you’ve heard of this? Fanning has been in the doghouse since Spring, and, after the little experiment with him at tight end this past summer, little to nothing has been heard from him since. He hasn’t even dressed for the past two games. Thanks for posting the entire article in your comment, though. It made up for the complete lack of sense your input made. If anything, this only reveals that CNS will not put up with anything or anyone not willing to buy into his system for building championship football teams. Coach Harry Potter could learn from this – seems like he is at least throwing a little discipline around at the Plains. Coach The Hat could try it sometime and maybe his teams wouldn’t quit halfway through the season for once.

  4. Hal Bennett October 24, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    I spend far too much time reading forum threads from opponents of Alabama football. It never ceases to amaze me that on the one hand you find a few intelligent, knowledgeable fans who apparently have been around long enough to make it interesting to read their posts, while on the other end of the spectrum are these people whose fandom — fanaticism, actually — has them saying such off the wall things that I wonder why I wade through their comments to get to those that are worthwhile.

    I know enough about psychology to know that men are supposed to experience less in the way of feelings than women do. The divide between the Right and Left Brains in men is supposedly clouded in comparison to that in women, thus women, it is explained, have a freer avenue for their feelings to roam. If you want to argue logically with a woman, chances are you would do much better to appeal to how she feels about the situation.

    But I have to wonder if that avenue of feeling becomes less clouded in men during football season. Fanatic fans, presumably most of whom are males, will let the feeling side of their brain take over from their reason. Until that day in the season comes when there is no longer hope springing eternal for their team’s winning a championship, a lot of fans will get on these forums and say unreasonable things — such as Saban’s wife was seen house shopping in Austin, or he’s “more likely” to wind up in Dallas.

    • The Conduit October 24, 2013 at 7:15 am #

      I agree. That’s what happens in an article about an upcoming Alabama vs Anybody University football game when Little Brother doesn’t think there’s a chance Anybody University can win. Instead of talking about Tennessee, they go off-topic with a rumor from a guy saying ESPN is reporting Nick Saban’s wife has been looking for houses near the University of Texas, neverminding that there doesn’t seem to be any documentation of ESPN saying that.

      Plus Auburn plays Georgia on the same date. That’s a hateful rivalry. But oh well, Little Brother Syndrome still doesn’t have a cure, in spite of all the pink helmets and socks.

      Can’t wait for Saturday. Bring on the Vols.

  5. Crimsonite October 24, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Why don’t you fucked up bastards get involved with your half assed football team until the Iron Bowl, while you still have something to excite you; instead of masturbating to the fantasy that Saban is going to leave or Bama getting sanctioned by the NCAA. What a bunch of lifeless boring pieces of shit you are.

  6. bart ralph October 24, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    if you follow and watch all of the games every weekend then you would have to be an absolute idiot if you think the volunteer buttchuggers have a snowballs chance in hell at beating BAMA, roll tide assmunch !!!

  7. pete4tide October 28, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    “Third Weekend in October: Kicking Ass and Taking Names”

    The recommended title for the Vol game on every sports article about AL vs TN.

    The Vols found out that “the red team” is the one from Athens, GA. Crimson is another color altogether, and comes with an ass whoopin.

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