Could Alabama’s top-ranked pass defense finally get tested this weekend in Knoxville?
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and his two weapons out wide, receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, will challenge the Crimson Tide’s secondary Saturday by stretching the field and making them defend the vertical pass.
Earlier this week, Alabama head coach Nick Saban called Hunter and Patterson “two of the best receivers we’ve played against all year,” and said UT has “by far the biggest and best offensive line.”
The Tide hasn’t faced an offensive line as huge, athletic and dominant as Tennessee’s. The Vols’ front five all weigh over 300 pounds and have only allowed three sacks all year. Winning the line of scrimmage will be key for Bama.
“They’re a lot more protection conscious,” Saban said.
UT also has one of the SEC’s best rushing (183.33 yards per game) and passing (299 ypg) attacks.
“To me,” Saban said, “it’s how do you stop all the components? They’re not on-dimensional.”
Matchup: No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) at Tennessee (3-3, 0-3 SEC), 6 p.m. CT, ESPN
On the line: Tennessee hasn’t won an SEC game yet. The Vols have had a tough conference schedule thus far, having played Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State, the latter two both on the road. A win against loathed rival and the nation’s No. 1 team Alabama would probably cool off Derek Dooley’s hot seat.
Of course for the Tide, every week is the same—they have their No. 1 ranking, perfect record and a trip to the national championship on the line.
When Alabama has the ball…Torn meniscus, bruised knee, pinched fat pad…whatever you want to call it, quarterback A.J. McCarron is not 100 percent, but nothing can keep this guy out of a game. Tennessee has one of the league’s worst rushing defenses, allowing 178.83 ypg, so look for Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon to get their wheels going much like they did last week against Missouri (they combined for 321 yards and 5 touchdowns on 36 carries).
When Tennessee has the ball…Tennessee can run the ball, but expect them to show off Bray’s strong arm in an attempt to exploit Bama’s untested secondary. Bray is second in the conference behind Tyler Wilson averaging 288.3 ypg. His main targets are Hunter, Patterson and tight end Mychal Rivera.
Prediction: The last time Tennessee beat a No. 1 team was Auburn in 1985 in Neyland Stadium. Don’t expect Saturday to be the Vols' next take down of a top team.
Alabama 38, Tennessee 10
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