When the Tennessee Volunteers try for the eighth year in a row to best Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide this Saturday night, a laundry list of challenges will meet the Vols at the entrance to Neyland Stadium.
But you might start at quarterback. Or specifically, the orange and white paper mache wall around theirs.
The Vols haven’t had much to boast about in the lifetimes of every 2nd grader alive, and if all goes as it should this Saturday (the Tide is currently a 17-point favorite), the Vols’ 8th loss in a row to Bama will assure the 7th year in a row that Tennessee will have had a losing SEC record. But, that said, here is an impressive stat:
Tennessee is tied for 125th in the nation (out of 128 FBS schools) having given up 30 sacks. There Vol fans…something to be proud of!
Couple that fact with Alabama’s newfound proclivity of taking opposing quarterbacks to the turf, and if you’re among our UT brethren (who by the way always dress as though they’re at a garbage workers’ convention), you got yourself a problem.
The Tide has registered 19 sacks on the year, ten of those coming in the last six quarters of play. By comparison with past defenses, Bama had just 22 sacks in all of 2013. The Tide is just 3 short of that mark in just seven games this season.
Sacking the QB has been a bit of an anomoly for Bama defenses in recent years. Saban talks about affecting the quarterback, and there are certainly other ways to do so than to take him down. But there has definitely been a resurgence in this area with the addition of quick-twitch rushers like Tim Williams and Rashaan Evans, as well as other pesky defenders like Ryan Anderson and Reggie Ragland. All have developed an appetite for QB blood, sweat and fears, and it’s showing up early and often.
There will be plenty of storylines in Knoxville this Saturday night, the most popular being Lane Kiffin’s return to Volunteer country. But by game’s end, finding a volunteer to take Justin Worley’s place may be the only one that matters.