In a fashion that seems almost routine, the Alabama Crimson Tide jumped out to an early 20-3 second-quarter lead and never looked back in Saturday's 44-13 blowout of Tennessee in Knoxville.
In one of the south's greatest rivalries, the Tide have now won six straight over the Vols, most of them in similar thrashings. Quarterback A.J. McCarron proved early on that his knee was not going to slow him down, and the defense did its part to hold off a powerful Tennessee passing attack led by Tyler Bray.
The Tide, now 7-0 and still ranked atop the BCS standings, will head home for a date with the also undefeated Mississippi State Bulldogs next weekend. But before we look ahead, let's take one last look back at the Tennessee game and grade the performances by each of the Tide starters.
If this is the way A.J. McCarron plays with a bruised knee, well look out, America! McCarron was on his game from the opening drive.
By the end of the night, the underappreciated leader of the 'Bama offense had completed 17 of 22 passes for a career high 306 yards and four touchdowns. He has still yet to throw an interception on the season and put forth a Heisman quality effort in a difficult atmosphere.
Hooking up with freshman wideout Amari Cooper throughout the game, McCarron looked poised and confident. If his knee was bothering him at all, he never showed it.
Eddie Lacy: Grade B
T.J. Yeldon: Grade A-
Still nursing an ankle injury, junior ball-carrier Eddie Lacy managed to bruise and beat the Tennessee defence, atoning for 80 yards on 17 carries. Lacy also caught three passes for another 17 yards on the night. Most impressive once again were his amazing spin moves that helped to turn short gains into first downs.
Yeldon, the freshman, had the best night on the ground, though. Yeldon put together 129 yards on just 15 carries, including two touchdowns and an 8.6 yards-per-carry average on the night. His 43-yard dash midway through the fourth quarter finished off the scoring for the Tide, and his ridiculously quick footwork dazzled 'Bama fans on more than a few occasions.
Christion Jones: Grade C
Amari Cooper: Grade A+
Kevin Norwood: Grade B-
Kenny Bell: Grade B
Without wasting any time, let us get straight to the performance by Amari Cooper. The freshman has now established himself as the go-to receiver for the Tide and has a future as bright as anyone on the roster.
Cooper caught seven passes for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the night. More impressive than the numbers were the quality of catches, his ability to pick up yards after the catch and his steady and reliable hands.
Now the all-time Alabama record holder for touchdowns as a freshman (five), Cooper is well on his way to superstar status.
Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood each had two big catches; Bell with the most impressive of the lot, as he danced down the sideline for a 39-yard fourth-quarter score.
Michael Williams: Grade B
Williams caught a pair of McCarron passes Saturday, including a one-yard touchdown that put the Tide up 20-3 in the second quarter. On a play that just about everyone in the building expected to be a run, McCarron went with a play-action fake before turning to Williams in the defensive backfield for his second touchdown pass of the game.
Cyrus Kouandjio: Grade B+
Chance Warmack: Grade B+
Barrett Jones: Grade B+
Anthony Steen: Grade B+
D.J. Fluker: Grade B+
The offensive line has to be the most cohesive unit for the Tide to be successful on offense. Therefore, it gets graded equally as a unit.
On this night, McCarron was sacked only twice over the course of the game, but one of them was certainly no fault of the protection provided by the offensive line.
Most impressively was the fact that while Alabama ran the ball 45 times on the night, none of them went for negative yards, and only two carries were for no gain.
Ed Stinson: Grade B-
Jesse Williams: Grade B
Damion Square: Grade B
Tennessee tried to run the ball on Alabama, but failed to do so successfully, gaining just 90 yards on 27 carries. The defensive front of Alabama was just too good at clogging the line, allowing the linebackers to step up and shut them down.
Williams and Square each had two tackles, while Stinson was credited with just one. Still, these guys did their part to jam up the holes and allow the men behind them to finish the job play after play.
Also of note, Williams had one quarterback hurry and square deflected a pass.
Adrian Hubbard: Grade B-
Trey DePriest: Grade A-
Nico Johnson: Grade B
Xavier Dickson: Grade B
C.J. Mosley: Grade A+
DePriest was second on the team in tackles with six. Dickson had four tackles of his own, one saving a Tennessee touchdown in the second half.
This group shut down the middle lanes for the defense and took away much of what quarterback Tyler Bray was looking for, forcing inaccurate passes and stifling the Tennessee passing attack.
Technically coming off the bench, Mosley led the team in tackles with seven, including one for a six-yard loss and intercepted a poorly thrown pass by Bray. Mosley was most likely the player of the game defensively, but there's nothing new about that.
Deion Belue: Grade B
Robert Lester: Grade A-
Nick Perry: Grade C
Dee Milliner: Grade A
HaHa Clinton-Dix: Grade A-
Vinnie Sunseri: Grade A-
Milliner was once again the All-American he deserves to be, racking up five tackles and breaking up a potential first-half touchdown.
Lester had four tackles and a touchdown-saving interception in the end zone, his 12th career pick. Belue and Fulton both broke up Tennessee passes.
Vinnie Sunseri and HaHa Clinton-Dix combined for 11 tackles off the bench.