The No.8 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1, 3-1) take on the Tennessee Volunteers (3-3, 1-2). After losing their SEC opener to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide were supposedly reeling. However, they’ve been on a different level in recent weeks. The Crimson Tide are coming off of a strong victory over the Texas A&M Aggies last week. Despite the big outcome, expectations are for Alabama to come ready to play.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide crushed the Aggies’ hopes with three interceptions for touchdowns. On the season, they force over two turnovers per game. Alabama also holds opponents to 71 rushing yards per game. That combination has been too much for teams incapable of running their quarterback.
For Tennessee to pull an upset of this magnitude, they must be able to control the line of scrimmage. Despite the .500 record, the Volunteers have been a dominant team at times. They just haven’t been able to finish games in the end.
The Volunteers average 222 rushing yards per game. Surprisingly, they gain more yards than the Crimson Tide by a fairly significant margin this season. Alabama only runs for 198 yards per game, behind the expertise of Derrick Henry. However, running back Jalen Hurd has to be up to the challenge against this dominant defense. Hurd is battling the flu, so we’ll see what type of shape he’s in early on.
If the Volunteers can’t run the ball with Hurd, the onus will fall on quarterback Joshua Dobbs. In the past, the Crimson Tide have had trouble with mobile quarterbacks. Therefore, it’s important for Dobbs to be aggressive from the outset. If not, the Crimson Tide will take advantage of a tentative offense. Coming into the game, Dobbs only has two interceptions, so he must continue to take care of the ball.
Meanwhile, Alabama has found their QB for the rest of the season. Jake Coker has 11 touchdowns and six interceptions this year, but he’s been great with the ball in recent weeks. The Crimson Tide have played with the lead in the second half of games, and Coker hasn’t been forced to make plays that aren’t there. If they fall behind Tennessee, it maybe a different story.
Everybody knows about Henry’s team-leading 12 touchdowns, but the Crimson Tide spread the wealth around. Calvin Ridley leads Alabama with 38 catches. He’s also tied for second with three touchdowns. Although his yards per catch are sitting at 11.5, Ridley has the ability to get behind the defense in a hurry.
The Crimson Tide are still trying to get back in the race for the SEC West title. They can’t afford another loss in the conference, if they expect to make the College Football Playoff. Therefore, the Crimson Tide have enough incentive to come out of the gates fast.