Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Tennessee Volunteers: Complete Game Preview
The third Saturday in October is an annual rivalry that pits the Tennessee Volunteers against the Alabama Crimson Tide. For over 100 years, the game has seen numerous storylines play out, and this year, its the continued dominance of the Tide versus the rebuilding effort of Vols.
Ever since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, Alabama has dominated the series, winning by an average of 21.6 points. The Vols last defeated the Tide in 2006.
Tennessee (3-3) saw its first AP ranking in four years evaporate after a much-hyped game against Florida ended in a 17-point loss. The Volunteers are definitely hungry for their first significant win in four years.
Alabama, however, is unlikely to be the team that cures that hunger.
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When: Saturday, October 20
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 66 degrees and a low of 48 degrees, i.e., football weather
Tweets, Quotes and Sound Bites
Tennessee has been chattering quite a bit leading up the game.
Shortly after the loss at Mississippi State, Tyler Bray tweeted, "We got some bandwagon fans. Hopefully my apt. Isn't egged."
He has since deleted the tweet and apologized.
Derek Dooley quipped at his Monday morning press conference, "[Alabama] drafts, we recruit -- and they get the first 25 picks!"
There's nothing like a vote of confidence about the direction of the Tennessee program from the head man himself! Blaine Bishop, Nashville radio host and former college and NFL player, didn't like the comment.
Darrington Sentimore, former Alabama player, regrets that he'd ever played for Nick Saban,
It's his personality. It's like some players he will see you like in the hallway and he will walk right past you like he don't even see you. I don't like stuff like that. I ain't going to lie to you. I want this game more than any other game because I want to beat Saban.
Alabama, on the other hand, has remained relatively quiet this week.
Nick Saban pumped up the Tennessee offense for two minutes in response to a question on Monday.
Home Team: Tennessee Volunteers
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The Tennessee Volunteers had very high hopes for the 2012 season, but so far, they only have a Week 1 win over NC State to show for it.
The Vols are likely looking at a 7-5 season (which counts what will be a tough game at Vanderbilt as a win), which is "expected" and "OK" for many fans at this point.
But at the start of the season, such quotes as, "10-plus wins and one of them being Bama. Book it. This team is gonna surprise," and "I could see a 10-2 season" and "Though I believe the likes of a 10-2 season, I would be very satisfied with a 9-3 season" were running rampant in a game-by-game prediction article written on August 20.
At this point, there is no question that the inconsistent Tennessee program is looking at the possibility of more coaching turmoil. Like it or not, athletic director Dave Hart made fixing football his No. 1 priority when he was hired last September.
(Meanwhile, a fellow Vol coach who overtook a team left in shambles is looking like he'll compete in just his second year.)
Visiting Team: Alabama Crimson Tide
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When looking at the roster this year, many thought that the Alabama Crimson Tide would be good, but nowhere near as good as the 2011 BCS National Champions.
I mean, how do you get better after losing Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and six more players to the NFL?
Only Nick Saban could answer that question. Indeed, the 2012 squad looks just as good as either of his previous two national championship teams at Alabama.
First, they spanked No. 8 Michigan in front of millions of viewers on ESPN 41-14 to open the season. Since then, the Tide has steamrolled through a slew of teams with a combined record of 16-17.
While overmatched, Tennessee represents the starting point of the key stretch of games for Alabama's repeat hopes. After the Vols, Bama takes on No. 12 Mississippi State, No. 6 LSU and No. 18 Texas A&M.
Could the Tide overlook the Volunteers? Sure. But Saban isn't known for having letdown games.
A Lost Rivalry
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The third Saturday in October is a rivalry that began in 1901 and is known for its winning streaks by one team or the other. Right now, Alabama is on a five-game winning streak.
The current streak follows a dominant run by Tennessee under Phillip Fulmer, where the Vols won 10 of 12 games against the Crimson Tide starting in 1995.
The overall series stands at 48-38-7 in favor of Alabama, but the rivalry looks like it's nearing an out-of-control scenario from Tennessee's perspective.
Alabama doesn't look like it's slowing down anytime soon, and if the Volunteers are forced to make a coaching change at the end of this season or next, this rivalry could break the 11-game winning streak set in 1981 by Bear Bryant.
Las Vegas Says...
Alabama is currently a 21-point road favorite this weekend at Tennessee.
As casual bettors throw their money toward the top teams in the country at the last minute, as they're prone to do, that spread could stretch to 23 of 24 points.
The over/under is 56 points, a moderate total. This line could be crushed if the game turns into a scoring fest like Tennessee-Georgia, but that all depends on how grueling the Alabama defense is.
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The Tennessee offense averages an impressive 38 points per game this season, but a much less-heralded Alabama offense scores even more at 40.5 points.
Alabama's defense is unquestionably better, and that will be the key reason the Vols struggle: Their potent offense won't be able to crack the Crimson Tide defense enough times.
Tide running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldin have excellent chances for big runs against a Tennessee defense that has had serious issues stopping big plays (five runs of over 45 yards against Florida and Georgia).
Even before the season, when I saw the Vols having a 9-3 year, I had Alabama winning by double digits. But after seeing that Bama hasn't regressed and Tennessee remains down, my predicted point gap has widened.
Alabama 41 - Tennessee 17