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Alabama Prepares for the Tennessee Volunteers

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The #2 Alabama Crimson Tide are feeling good after their 41-24 victory over the #3 Georgia Bulldogs this past weekend. They are looking like one of the top teams they were projected to be during the preseason. Alabama will now look to face one of their biggest rivals in the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2), who are coming off an embarrassing 34-7 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats. This will be the fourth consecutive matchup for Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban against one of his former assistants. This week, the Tide will take on their former defensive coordinator turned Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Coach Pruitt’s seat is getting hotter after the bad loss to the Wildcats. He will look to beat Alabama in Knoxville to cool his seat. Pruitt and the Volunteers will look overthrow Alabama to get their season back on track.

Win the defensive matchups

The defense for the Crimson Tide improved dramatically in terms of effort and performance in between the weeks of Ole Miss and Georgia. There were still some issues with the presnap lineups from defensive coordinator Pete Golding. Tennessee’s offense, although highly inconsistent, will look to win matchups with their wide receivers. Like Ole Miss and Georgia, Tennessee will likely attack the deep middle field in between the linebackers and safeties of Alabama. This will be a big game for a young defensive back like Malachi Moore to completely shut down the inside passing game of Tennessee. This will also require safeties Daniel Wright and Jordan Battle to get into better positions to make the plays.

Alabama’s defense is ranked 70th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (294.8). They rarely get beat deep due to the stellar coverages of cornerback Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe. Senior middle linebacker Dylan Moses needs to stay in the linebacker zone and not as a slot corner. Tennessee’s offense is not explosive, but they can find some weaknesses in the defense. They can give Alabama a tough time on defense if Golding does not position the secondary in a better position.

The defense needs to get to Jarrett Guarantano

Last week, the defensive line was more active as they found ways to contribute even if they couldn’t get sacks. The Tide accounted for 10 pass deflections against Georgia with four of them from the defensive line. This week, Alabama will be challenged more in terms of getting to Tennessee dual-threat quarterback in Guarantano. Alabama has accounted for only seven sacks this season with three of them from the defensive line. Defensive end Christian Barmore has accounted for two tackles for loss and two sacks. Barmore and the defensive line will need to collapse the pocket and disallow Guarantano the opportunity for a first down with his legs. They can create enough momentum to build themselves into a defense that can break any offensive line. Trey Smith will be one of the most efficient offensive linemen the Tide will face so far this season.

The offense needs to spread around

It is business as usual for the Crimson Tide on the offensive side of the ball. They have four of the most electrifying players along with one of the best offensive coordinators in Steve Sarkisian. They have the capability to throw constant deep passes from quarterback Mac Jones to either wide receivers in DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Instead, the plays will spread the routes apart thus giving Jones the best options to read the coverage schemes. Jones is one of the most efficient and accurate quarterbacks in the nation. He is currently first in the NCAA in quarterback rating (207.7) and second in completion percentage (78.3). Both Waddle (557 yards) and Smith (483) are fourth and eighth in the nation in receiving yards accounted for.

The passing offense for Alabama will not have that heavy of a challenge compared to Georgia as they face Tennessee. They will still have to prepare for a secondary that is good at recognizing route schemes. Tennessee’s defense ranks 29th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (203.5). Sarkisian can utilize the high-caliber playmaking abilities of Smith and Waddle but can use also establish wide receiver John Metchie III and tight end Miller Forristall for a potential career day for Jones.


Prediction – Alabama 55-20

Last season’s 35-13 Alabama win was the closest game over Tennessee in the last four years. Outside of that, the Tide have beaten Tennessee by an average of 38 points. Look for the Crimson Tide to keep evaluating their defense by playing more efficiently in the strengths of Tennessee’s offense. Offensively, this can be a career day for Jones, Smith, or Waddle. Running back Najee Harris can also find himself having a huge day as the Volunteers are ranked 35th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (148.8). A win over the Volunteers and Pruitt would give Saban a 23-0 record against his former assistants.


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