One of the SEC’s biggest and most hated rivalries continues to be one-sided after week eight of 2018. The Alabama Crimson Tide thrashed Tennessee 58-21 in Knoxville, thus continuing a 12-game win streak over the Volunteers. This puts head coach Nick Saban at a 15-0 record when facing his assistants, with Jeremy Pruitt now coaching for Tennessee. The Tide dominated in every phase of the game like they have been doing all season long. In this game against the Volunteers, Alabama displayed many characteristics of old features that made them elite years ago as well.
Crimson Tide Thrashes Tennessee 58-21 in Knoxville
A Healthy Tua Leads An Efficient and Diverse Offense
There was a sign of relief from Crimson Tide fans when they saw quarterback Tua Tagovailoa jumping around against Tennessee. He has been hobbled by knee issues. He was more accurate and explosive with his passes even without wide receiver DeVonta Smith (hamstring injury). Tagovailoa passed for 19 completions out of 29 attempts for 306 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a QBR of 93.7. He displayed a wide range of playcalling and decisions in his throws and in the run-pass-option scheme for Alabama. This was a good indication of why Josh Jacobs was starting for the Tide instead of senior running back Damien Harris. Jacobs has been a great weapon as a running back and as an extra receiver in the backfield. Jacobs rushed for 68 yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 carries against Tennessee.
Even without Smith, the Tide generated a lot of impact in the passing game from the receivers. Freshman Jaylen Waddle was an explosive play maker as he accounted for 4 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown. Waddle was delivered a perfect pass from Tagovailoa, but it was Waddle who set up the 77-yard touchdown. Jerry Jeudy was all over the field as he ran multiple different routes and formations against a confused Volunteer defense. Jeudy accounted for 5 receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. The Crimson Tide’s offensive line was once again efficient protecting Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts whenever he came in. Tennessee’s defense did not account for a sack against the Tide’s offense as they rarely penetrated the backfield.
Alabama’s Rushing Defense Showed Out
What has made Alabama one of the most elite teams in college football was its ability to stop the run. This off-season was a transition for Alabama’s defense as they had to replace many of their starters from last year. Before the game against Tennessee, the Tide was ranked 33rd in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (125.1). The Volunteers could not generate a running game against Alabama’s defense as the Tide held Tennessee to 31 rushing yards.
The Tide’s defense accounted for three sacks and 11 tackles for loss as they used different blitz packages to keep the Volunteers offense in constant disarray. Safety Xavier McKinney (1.5 TFL) and Defensive back Shyheim Carter (2 TFL) were often sent in defensive back blitzes. McKinney’s lone sack early in the 1st quarter forced a fumble from Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano that was recovered by outside linebacker Christian Miller.
Tennessee’s Keller Chryst Fills In Well At Quarterback.
There were some signs that showed the Tide’s defense did not come prepared to adapt to changes like Tennessee did. When Guarantano went down with a collarbone injury, former Stanford Cardinal quarterback Keller Chryst took over. The defense for Alabama prepared for Guarantano’s favor in the spread offense but not Chryst’s pro-style performance. Chryst threw for nine completions out of 15 attempts for 164 yards, two touchdowns, and a QBR of 94.2 in the short time he was in the game.
Chryst was able to spread the ball more throughout the field than Guarantano was able to against Alabama’s secondary. Volunteers wide receiver Jauan Jennings was easily beating the zone coverages near the Tide’s Carter and cornerback Saivion Smith. Jennings caught six receptions for 102 yards and averaged 17 yards per reception in his best game of the season.
Alabama Gets A Much Needed Bye Week
The Crimson Tide are officially on bye week with no game this upcoming Saturday. This could not have come for a better time for Alabama for many different aspects. The Tide will need to get completely healed up and fix their injury slate. Tagovailoa has two weeks to get his right knee completely healed after having a brace on it for two games. DeVonta Smith was questionable for the game against Tennessee but didn’t make the trip to not make the injury worse.
This will also be a time for the offense to fix some open concerns in the interior offensive line in terms of consistency. For the defense, they will try to continue the learning process for these younger players especially in the secondary. Highlighting huge flaws in the zone coverage schemes in the Tennessee game was a blessing in disguise.
The Tide will now have extra time to fix their flaws as they will play the #4 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge in two weeks. This game is already starting to set up as the game of the year with the rapid rise of the Tigers. Although Tennessee is a hated opponent by Alabama, the LSU Tigers are a team they do not take lightly with the past heavy grudge matches they’ve had in the past few years.