Several undefeated ranked teams are dropping with huge upsets eight weeks into the season. Some teams go through adversity but then they adjust and find ways to win. Last Saturday, the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0) came into their week eight matchup against their rival in the Tennessee Volunteers (2-5). Alabama was looking to showcase their elite offense and stabilize their defense. There are many great moments the Crimson Tide accomplished when they defeated Tennessee with a 35-13 score. There were also some negative attributes that the Crimson Tide encountered that may affect them in future games if they do not find answers immediately. The main con following the win over Tennessee? Alabama loses Tua Tagovailoa for several games due to injury.
Pros and Cons of No. 1 Alabama’s Victory
Pro 1 – Running back Najee Harris took over
One of the biggest keys to the game against the Volunteers was for Alabama’s offense to initiate their rushing game. From the beginning of the game, the Crimson Tide utilized Harris with great efficiency as he drove the Tide’s offense down the field. Harris accounted for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 21 rushes. He was also a key player in the passing game. Harris had four receptions for 48 yards. The running back was largely responsible for the Crimson Tide accounting for 140 total rushing yards against the Volunteers’ defense. Brian Robinson Jr. also accounted for a touchdown against the Volunteers. Harris was the toughest player for the Volunteers’ defense to take down despite flaws from the offensive line.
Con 1 – Alabama loses Tua Tagovailoa to a high ankle sprain
Last year, the Tide had one of the most explosive offenses until Tagovailoa suffered a significant knee injury during the midseason. He arguably hasn’t played with the same efficiency since. On Saturday, the Tide allowed too much pressure from the Volunteers’ defense. In the middle of the second quarter, Tagovailoa was sacked by Tennessee defensive lineman Greg Emerson and was taken out of the game one play later.
This year, Alabama loses Tua Tagovailoa to a high ankle sprain. He was examined at the hospital where the injury was confirmed. Since the injury, the Tide’s offense did not play at the same efficiency with Mac Jones under center. Alabama accounted for 373 total yards on offense and couldn’t drive the ball down the field with Jones as the signal-caller. Tagovailoa will miss one-to-two weeks to recover properly as they hope to get him back for No. 2 LSU at 100%.
Pro 2 – Punter Ty Perine could potentially be a future star
All season long, the Crimson Tide have experienced many problems in special teams. Ever since freshman kicker Will Reichard has missed multiple games with a hip flexor injury, the kicking and punting game has been inefficient. Last Saturday, Reichard came back and punted once and still showed weakness with his injury. Then, walk-on true freshman Perine came in the game. He brought a roar of cheering and applause at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Perine punted the ball two times for a total of 93 yards with his longest being 51 yards. His last punt was just a minute left in the game. He not only punted the ball but then he also made the tackle. Perine’s punts have had the highest hang time since former Alabama punter and current Green Bay Packers punter JK Scott.
Con 2 – Rare slipups from linebacker Christian Harris and cornerback Patrick Surtain II
Once again there were certain areas of the Crimson Tide defense that were unable to perform efficiently. True freshman Harris is a player who hasn’t exactly played like an underwhelming freshman so far this season. Harris led the Tide’s defense in total tackles accounted for against Tennessee with eight, but he encountered some missed tackles and assignments. Surtain II is one of the most consistent coverage defenders in the entire SEC and potentially, the nation. Surtain II had one of the most difficult games in his first two seasons as a starter for the Tide. He played in certain coverages, but he allowed a few passes to Volunteers wide receiver Jauan Jennings. He also encountered multiple pass interference penalties against him.
Pro 3 – Terrell Lewis is becoming the star for the defense
The 2019 season was potentially a turning point for outside linebacker Lewis. In the game against Tennessee, Lewis accounted for seven total tackles, a team-high five solo tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. He was also a dominating force in the Tide’s pass rush and played consistently in zone coverage. One of the biggest goals for Tide defensive coordinator Pete Golding is to have more players that are less one-dimensional. Outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings and safety Shyheim Carter are players for the Crimson Tide that fit that depiction. So far this season, Lewis has accounted for nine tackles for loss and six sacks, which leads the SEC.
Con 3 – Core defensive line lacked consistency
Despite the high efficiency of Lewis and Jennings as hybrid-position pass rushers, the Crimson Tide still lacked pass rush from their main defensive linemen. The Tide’s defense only accounted for three total sacks against Tennessee with two from Lewis and one more from freshman middle linebacker Shane Lee. Defensive tackle D.J. Dale accounted for one tackle for loss and defensive end Raekwon Davis had one half of a tackle for loss. The Crimson Tide defense has been lacking great pass rush, outside of Jennings and Lewis, since defensive end Labryan Ray had foot surgery. Alabama will play much more explosive offenses in the next few weeks including the LSU Tigers. The Tide will need to have more consistent pass rushers in case Ray doesn’t come back in time for LSU.