The No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide rolled to their seventh consecutive victory in a 44-13 stomping of the Tennessee Volunteers in their house. Things were close early, but the Tide pulled ahead and finished the game in a dominant fashion that only they're capable of.
Alabama dominated with defense and special teams in the first half. In the middle of the second quarter, its average starting position was the 45-yard line.
Following a three-yard AJ McCarron touchdown pass to tight end Michael Williams, that special-teams advantage turned backwards on them.
Volunteers wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson took a kickoff back 45 yards to the Crimson Tide 48-yard line.
Tyler Bray then hit Mychal Rivera, his tight end, for a 43-yard strike that brought the Vols to the Tide’s five-yard line. That set up a two-yard A.J. Johnson touchdown run and brought the game within a 20-10 margin.
That would be the closest the game got, as the Tide proceeded to dominate the Vols from that point on.
We've got all the best of today’s Twitter reaction, grades for each team’s key players and a look ahead for both of these SEC schools below.
It Was Over When...
Halfway through the third quarter, Tennessee forced a punt from the Tide’s end zone and took over on Alabama’s side of the field. After a nine-yard run by running back Marlin Lane, the Vols failed to convert on a fourth-and-one attempt.
'Bama then sealed the deal with its next possession.
The Tide easily marched down the field in three-and-a-half minutes and took a 30-10 lead, scoring on a 42-yard touchdown pass from McCarron to freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Tweets of the Day
Bryant Denny mused pregame about the state of things the last time Tennessee beat Alabama:
The last time Tennessee beat Bama... twitter.com/UA_BryantDenny…— BryantDenny (@UA_BryantDenny) October 20, 2012
Alabama's official Twitter reminded the Tide faithful they were good in this matchup:
Alabama has won the previous five meetings against rival Tennessee. The last meeting in Knoxville, the Tide won 41-10 in 2010.— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) October 20, 2012
Joe Namath chimed in on the advantage AJ McCarron has because of the Tide's running game:
When you have a running game like Bama's play action passes work more often than not. ROLL TIDE!!!— Joe Namath (@RealJoeNamath) October 21, 2012
It wasn't all smiles for Alabama early on. Wes Rucker pondered the Tide's early struggles running the ball before they were able to wear down the Vols in the second half:
No clue why Bama keeps running inside against the Vols, but the Vols won't complain. They're solid up the gut.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) October 21, 2012
Alabama's official Twitter was back again to let us know Amari Cooper set the single-game receiving record for a freshman Crimson Tide receiver:
Amari Cooper currently has 162 yards receiving which is the most ever by an Alabama freshman in a single game.— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) October 21, 2012
Grades for Key Players
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: A+
AJ McCarron set a school record for passes without an interception. He hit the 239-consecutive mark and finished with 249 straight passes without a pick.
He made good plays within his system and capitalized on an imposing offensive line and excellent performance by freshman Amari Cooper.
There aren’t really any negatives to speak of for McCarron, who threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Eddie Lacey/T.J. Yeldon, RBs, Alabama: A
Both Lacey (17 carries) and Yeldon (15 carries) got their chances to carry the ball, but it was Yeldon who really shined on this night.
His 15 carries resulted in two touchdowns and ate up 129 yards of field.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: A+
Freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper had a simply fantastic day for the record books. He had a career-long 54-yard catch that put him over 100 yards receiving in the first half.
In the third quarter, he set the rookie receiving-yards record for Alabama by hitting the 162-yard mark.
Had it not been for an illegal procedure call, he would have had a third touchdown on a 30-yard catch-and-run that was called back.
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: D+
Big-time quarterbacks step up in big situations, and Bray did not shy away from coming to play against the Crimson Tide on prime time. However, he couldn’t make enough plays and made some crucial mistakes that hampered his team’s chances of pulling off the upset.
It isn’t just his fault, though.
The offensive and defensive lines were pushed around by the more physical and imposing Crimson Tide linemen.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: C-
Hunter wasn’t a big factor in the first half. He dropped a bomb from Bray just before halftime that would have put the Vols in striking range.
He broke out a little in the second half, hauling in four receptions for 70 yards. That’s including a nice 44-yard completion. Unfortunately, Bray was picked off in the end zone, and the Vols' chances dispersed with it.
Marlin Lane, RB, Tennessee: C+
Lane ran hard at times but was simply not involved enough to help his Vols make this game competitive. His 15 carries for 55 yards may look OK on the stat sheet, but it's not going to get it done against a team like Alabama.
Once 'Bama got out to a big lead, the running game was abandoned, and Tyler Bray took over handling the football for the Vols.
Alabama continues to rank atop the rest of the nation in the BCS standings and atop the SEC after another big win this week. It’ll have its toughest stretch on the schedule over the next three weeks, as it faces three consecutive ranked SEC teams.
Next up, the Tide meet No. 12 Mississippi State a week from now and then will travel to play sixth-ranked LSU in Death Valley on Nov. 3. If they win both of those games, they’ll put their flawless record on the line against Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies.
A looming matchup with the Florida Gators awaits the Tide in the SEC championship game if they can run the table and finish undefeated.
For Tennessee, things aren’t going to get any easier next week. The Volunteers face the current No. 7-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks on the road in what would be their fifth consecutive SEC loss this season.
After the Gamecocks, they have winnable games against Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Because of that, they could end up with a winning record and possibly a lowly bowl appearance. However, it could go either way right now for the struggling Vols.