Freshman WR Amari Cooper hauled in 2 TD passes in the best performance of his young career in Alabama's 44-13 win over Tennessee.
After taking the best shot from rival Tennessee in the first half, Alabama wore down the Vols in the second half en route to a convincing 44-13 victory.
Nick Saban’s club put together a well-rounded effort in all three phases and helped sink its hated rivals for the sixth consecutive season.
There were plenty of standout performers against the Vols, but also a few players that will have work to do in practice this week before taking the field against Mississippi State.
Which players fell on the right side of that equation, and who needs to step it up a notch?
Here are the winners and losers from Alabama’s win over Tennessee.
The questions surrounding McCarron’s balky knee—as a result of an injury suffered in last week’s win over Missouri—faded fairly quickly.
The junior delivered a sensational performance—going 17-of-22 for 306 yards and four touchdown passes, essentially throwing his hat into the ring in the wide open Heisman Trophy race.
He has now gone 249 passes without throwing an interception in a streak that dates back to last season, and he has equaled his 2011 season total of 16 touchdown passes through only seven games this season.
McCarron’s effort was a reminder that this offense is an explosive attack that no longer takes a backseat to the Tide’s stifling defense.
Sims got a few reps in the first half, but once again received the first call to succeed McCarron after the game got out of hand in the second half.
Late in the fourth quarter, the sophomore mishandled a zone read exchange with Kenyan Drake and put the ball on the ground—which led to Tennessee’s final points of the game by way of a field goal.
Sims’ fumble was the only turnover of the game for the Tide, which is sure to draw the ire of Saban and his staff in the film room.
Alabama’s dynamic freshman skill players put on a show in the demolition of the Volunteers.
Cooper had a career day catching seven passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns, while Yeldon led the ground attack with 15 carries for 129 yards and two scores.
Cooper remains the team’s leading receiver in receptions, yards and touchdowns while Yeldon is only five yards behind Eddie Lacy for the team lead in rushing yards.
Both freshmen appear to be on the fast track to stardom with bright careers ahead of them at the Capstone.
After a hot start early in the season, Jones has fallen behind Cooper and junior Kevin Norwood in the receiver rotation.
The sophomore only recorded one catch for nine yards against the Vols, and was supplanted in the return game by true freshman Cyrus Jones (more on him later).
It's worth noting that Jones is less than 100 percent after nursing an ankle injury suffered against Missouri last weekend.
However, unless he regains his health sooner than later, regaining a featured role in the offense could become an arduous task in the weeks ahead.
With injuries limiting previous starter Christion Jones and costing backup Dee Hart to miss the remainder of the season, the punt return job fell into the waiting hands of true freshman Cyrus Jones.
After a nifty 32-yard scamper on his second return of the game that helped setup the Tide’s first scoring drive, the younger Jones may have cemented his role on the team for the duration of this season.
Jones averaged nearly 15 yards per return on his four attempts and had another long return negated by a holding penalty.
Even though it's only one game, he appears to look like a natural playmaker as a return man.
Through six games, Alabama’s long-range field-goal kicker seemed to put the woes of last season’s nightmarish effort in the regular season loss to LSU behind him.
Foster came into the meeting with the Vols hitting on four of his six attempts this season, with three makes of 50 yards or more to his credit.
After missing two attempts (from 44 and 45 yards out) against Tennessee, Foster’s confidence appears to have taken a significant hit—which is a bad sign for an Alabama team bracing to face two of the nation’s Top 15 teams in the next two weeks.
Coming into the meeting with Tennessee, Alabama’s secondary was faced with its toughest task of the season trying to corral a Vols receiving group that featured two of the nation’s top talents in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Dee Milliner and Deion Belue stepped up to the challenge by holding Hunter without a catch and limiting Patterson to just one reception for 25 yards in the first half.
Although Hunter was able to haul in four passes for 70 yards in the second half, the game was well in hand by that point and the Tide was still able to keep both of them out of the end zone.
That effort has to be comforting to Tide fans considering that they may not face a more talented group of pass catchers for the rest of the season.
The defensive line did not play terribly, but it did have a subpar effort in comparison to the unit's lofty standards.
Tennessee was able to find more running room than one would think considering that starting running back Raijon Neal did not play due to injury.
Marlin Lane averaged nearly four yards per carry on his 15 totes—which doubles the number Bama's D hase allowed per carry this season.
Additionally, the front three failed to record a sack despite the Vols putting the ball in the air on 31 attempts.
However, the line did hold the Vols to 25 points under its season average of 38 points per game, and it was able to buckle down in the red zone only allowing one touchdown in three trips by the Tennessee offense.
If the unit’s bad game is allowing a prolific offense to score 13 points and net 79 yards rushing, that’s a pretty telling sign of the strength of the defense.