Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Tennessee Volunteers Complete Game Preview
While it's not technically on the third Saturday in October anymore, the annual Alabama-Tennessee rivalry always brings out intense passion from fans and players alike.
Since escaping in 2009 with a blocked field goal to save their undefeated season, the Crimson Tide have won the last three games by 31 points each, stirring up debate over whether the rivalry is dying down or not. According to a UA release, Tennessee returned some of its ticket allotment for the game.
But the Vols have found renewed energy under first-year coach Butch Jones, and after a late fumble lost them the game against Georgia, they got a signature win a week later against South Carolina.
And Tennessee would love nothing more than to spoil the Tide's undefeated season and national championship hopes.
Here's all the info you need:
Date: Saturday, Oct. 26
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Vol Network
Spread: Alabama by 26.5 to 28.5 points, according to Vegas Insider
Alabama Keys to Victory
Control the Line of Scrimmage
That's easier said than done against a Tennessee offensive line that's one of the best in the country. The unit features four seniors and a junior in Antonio "Tiny" Richardson who at 6'6" and 327 pounds is anything but.
Alabama's deep defensive line rotation will need to get good push to disrupt the passing and running games.
Don't Let the Rivalry Affect You
Alabama almost lost its first national championship season under coach Nick Saban at the hands of Tennessee in 2009. Emotions will be riding high, especially at the beginning of the game.
But the last three years the Crimson Tide have shown they can play dominating football against Tennessee, and there's no reason to believe it won't continue this year.
Tennessee Keys to Victory
Control the Line of Scrimmage
Tennessee's strength is its offensive line, and besides wide receiver Alton "Pig" Howard, that is about all the Vols have going for them on offense.
But a good offensive line can win a game, so Tennessee will need to exert its will up front to have a chance.
Alabama Players to Watch
Alabama's big nose tackle is where it all starts in winning the battle up front. Ivory has the talent to be disruptive and needs to throw the offensive line out of sync early and often.
The sophomore safety will be filling in for the injured Vinnie Sunseri and will finally get a start at his natural position, strong safety.
Collins should be a monster playing closer to the line and not having to worry about pass protection as much.
Tennessee Players to Watch
Antonio "Tiny" Richardson
Tennessee's mammoth offensive tackle is the anchor of the Vols' dominant line. He's gone toe-to-toe with Jadeveon Clowney and will be key to keeping quarterback Justin Worley clean.
Tennessee's stud receiver has been a force for the Vols on offense this year. He could have a big day against an Alabama secondary that is once again playing with new faces at new positions.
What They're Saying
Former Alabama quarterback Joe Namath is questioning whether Vinnie Sunseri should have been playing on special teams, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com:
"He's a general out on the field," Namath said on his podcast. "He got his injury in the first quarter covering a kickoff. I'm saying to myself 'What is he doing on the field covering a kickoff?' He is so important to that defensive unit and the college team Alabama, they not only have 80-plus players dressed out, they have 80-plus good players dressed out. You would think they would have someone covering the kickoff."
Nick Saban doled out high praise for Butch Jones, according to Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star:
"Tennessee is emerging as a very good football team in the last two weeks," Saban said. "I think Butch Jones has done an outstanding job there. When a team improves like they've improved, it's always a sign of good coaching, good coaching staff and a lot of people doing a very, very good job."
The Volunteers are only calling Alabama "The Red Team" this week, according to Evan Woodbery of The Knoxville News-Sentinel:
The Vols chanted "RED!" as they wrapped up their stretching with jumping jacks on Tuesday.
When coach Butch Jones referred to Alabama by name on the wireless microphone that he totes around in practice, he quickly corrected himself to "the red team."
Afterward, Jones downplayed the motivational ploy, saying it was "no big deal."
But players said it was a way of tearing down some of the mystique that surrounded the nation's top team, focusing players' attention on the things they could control.
"Mentally, just by their name, when team's hear that name, they're mentally beat already before they step on the field," said Tennessee receiver Alton "Pig" Howard. "I give them credit, but we've got warriors on our team as well. We're ready to go to war."
Quarterback Justin Worley isn't backing down in the smack talk:
Justin Worley: "We hate Alabama just like they hate us. They've had the upper hand recently, but they've had the upper hand on everybody."— Evan Woodbery (@TennesseeBeat) October 21, 2013
Alabama 38, Tennessee 7
It won't be as bad as Alabama's last two SEC games, but the Crimson Tide should have no problem handling the Volunteers this week.
Alabama will cruise past Tennessee, setting up an epic showdown in two weeks with LSU that will put the national championship picture into much clearer focus.