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Tennessee vs. Alabama: Biggest Keys for Volunteers to Upset Crimson Tide

Sep 21, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive lineman Daniel McCullers (98) rushes against the Florida Gators during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jesse ReedCorrespondent IOctober 25, 2013

The undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide host Tennessee in Week 9, and nobody expects the Volunteers to come away with an upset victory. 

Nobody expected David to knock off Goliath, either, but it happened.

Tennessee shouldn't beat Alabama this Saturday, but it can—provided the right set of circumstances. Here's a closer look at what must happen for Tennessee to upset the nation's top team. 

 

Shut Down 'Bama's Rushing Attack

/Getty Images

Nick Saban loves to run the ball, and his teams are usually really good at wearing opposing defenses down.

This year's squad is no different. Featuring one of the best offensive lines in the nation and some of the best running backs, Alabama averages 211.7 rushing yards per game.

T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake have combined to rush for 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns through just seven games.

Tennessee must shut this dynamic duo down early and often on Saturday, because if Alabama is able to control the clock and move the chains with its rushing attack, then Tennessee is doomed to lose. 

It will be up to Daniel McCullers to set the tone for his defensive teammates in the middle. Shutting down the run will force A.J. McCarron into a one-dimensional offense. 

 

Pressure A.J. McCarron Into Mistakes

Sep 28, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron (10) passing against the Mississippi Rebels during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Once Tennessee has shut Alabama's running game down, the next step to victory is shutting down McCarron by getting pressure on him and forcing him out of the pocket.

He's a pure pocket passer who plays his best when complemented by a strong running game.

McCarron has only thrown three interceptions all year long, and he has yet to throw more than one in a game. However, Tennessee must force him into more than one turnover in order to win this game on the road.  

The best way to get McCarron—or any other pocket passer—off his game is by applying pressure in the pocket and forcing him to move around, thus disrupting the timing and rhythm between the quarterback and his receivers.

 

Run Away with the Game

Oct 5, 2013; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Justin Worley (14) hands off to Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Georgia won 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Cred

Assuming the Volunteers have accomplished the first two goals, the final step to ensure victory is that Tennessee must run the ball effectively. 

This is something Tennessee already does well, thankfully. Averaging 201.7 rushing yards per game, the Volunteers rank No. 36 in the nation in rushing offense. 

Unfortunately, stuffing the run is something that Alabama does well.

The Crimson Tide allow just 98.3 rushing yards per game and just 3.26 yards per carry. Even more intimidating is the fact that Alabama has allowed just two rushing touchdowns this year.

If Tennessee can dominate the line of scrimmage and somehow break down Alabama's indomitable defense by pounding the rock (along with shutting down 'Bama's offense), then the Volunteers will ride home on a chariot of clouds with one of the biggest upsets in recent history, knocking the Crimson Tide off its perch as the top team in the nation. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78  

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