Tennessee vs. Alabama: What Crimson Tide Must Do to Avoid Upset vs. Volunteers

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2013

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide walks his team onto the field to face the Mississippi Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Pride always comes before the fall.

According to Vegas Insider, Alabama is going in as 28-point favorites on the Tennessee Volunteers. I might be going out on a limb here, but it looks like the Crimson Tide are going to win this game.

However, college football is a fickle game. Nick Saban should show each and every one of his players that Stanford-USC game from 2007. The Trojans were 41-point favorites and lost, 24-23.

In the SEC, you never want to fall asleep against an opponent, especially one that has almost beaten ranked opponents in consecutive weeks. The Volunteers have enough talent to jump at the chance if the Crimson Tide are caught napping.

In order to stave off any potential upset, Alabama should follow these three guidelines.


Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot

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It seems like every major upset is tied back to turnovers or that one big play from out of nowhere that completely changes a game.

From the turnover point of view, it's difficult for any team—even the No. 1 team in the country—to win a game when it loses the turnover battle.

In the immediate aftermath, you're killing whatever momentum you had been building on that offensive drive and, most times, giving the opponent great field position.

What you can't see is that sense of belief start to grow in the other team. While Tennessee's players won't be walking into this game expecting to lose, if they can swing a big turnover, then it will only galvanize them further in thinking they can actually win this game.


Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy

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The Crimson Tide need to get up early, put their foot right on Tennessee's throat and not let up until the final whistle. It's the easiest way to eliminate the threat of any possible upset.

Alabama needs to demoralize Tennessee with scores on its first few drives of the game. Maybe get a couple of quick touchdowns and then have that five- or six-minute scoring drive that eats time off the clock and moves the chains.

Pretty soon that tiny seed of doubt in the Vols' minds will turn into a mountain of doubt, and then they've got no way back.

The Tide's 52-0 win over Arkansas was a great example of this. They jumped on the Razorbacks early, getting a 28-0 lead going into the half. Although that was pretty much game-over, Alabama kept its foot on the gas, adding 17 points in the third quarter for good measure.


Make Justin Worley Beat You

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The Crimson Tide need to load up the box and make Justin Worley beat the defense over the top. So far this season, there's nothing that really makes you think Worley is good enough to beat a team like Alabama by himself.

According to the NCAA, the Vols are 107th in the nation in passing efficiency.

The loss to Oregon is a bit of a misnomer because of how quickly the Ducks offense hands it back to the other team. But in the loss to Florida, Rajion Neal ran for 42 yards, while Tennessee combined for 66 yards. That left a lot on Worley's shoulders, and he missed 13 of his 23 passes and threw two interceptions.

In Tennessee's wins against Georgia and South Carolina, it ran for 146 and 189 yards respectively as a team. Worley wasn't great in those games, but he had the running game to fall back on, and the Volunteers got big upsets as a result.

Alabama can't let that happen on Saturday.