Alabama vs. Tennessee: Vols' Chances vs. Crimson Tide Lie in Tyler Bray's Hands

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IOctober 20, 2012

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 13: Quarterback Tyler Bray #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks for the play from the sideline in a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on October 13, 2012 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Butch Dill/Getty Images

If Tennessee has any chance against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, it will have to start with junior quarterback Tyler Bray.

The Volunteers have the ability to rack up points, but they have been limited in recent weeks because Bray has tossed seven interceptions in his last four games.

That the Vols have still averaged 35.5 points in those games speaks volumes about this offense's firepower.

Bray was considered a top NFL prospect coming into this season, but his decision-making has tempered expectations, at least for the time being. He has the tools to excel in college football and beyond, though.

One has to believe that Bray is looking at this matchup as an opportunity to prove himself. After all, Alabama boasts the best defense in college football, allowing just 7.5 points per game.

The run defense and pass defense have been excellent for the Crimson Tide. They are allowing 1.76 yards per carry this season, tops in the nation. They are also giving up just 4.8 yards per pass attempt (fourth) while allowing two passing touchdowns (tied for best in the nation) and racking up 11 interceptions (tied for sixth in the FBS).

We all know what Alabama did to Denard Robinson and Michigan to start the season. The 41-14 victory was a sign of things to come for Nick Saban's squad. It's not out of the question that the Crimson Tide run the table and capture a second straight national championship.

The Tennessee running game is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, tied for 41st in the nation. Against a strong Florida run defense in Week 3, the Volunteers managed just 83 yards on 28 carries (3.0 yards per carry).

That doesn't bode well against Alabama.

Bray needs to have the game of his life for the Volunteers to even have a chance to pull off an upset, and his performance last week against a Mississippi State defense allowing 5.7 yards per pass attempt wasn't promising. He averaged 6.2 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and one interception.

This could be a statement game for Bray, but I wonder if he's far enough along in his development to meet the challenge.

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