Project Turnaround enters its seventh game and takes Kiffin & Co. to the plains of Alabama to take on the No. 1 or No. 2-ranked (depends on who you ask) Crimson Tide in the renewal of their yearly "third Saturday in October" border war.
Fresh off a 45-19 spanking of the Georgia Bulldogs, everyone dressed Volunteers orange -- including embattled signal-caller Jonathan Crompton -- has to be feeling pretty good about themselves on the eve of this contest.
They may even be thinking about winning it. Hey, there's no need to let the perceived slight regarding Alabama denying the Volunteers permission to wear their home orange jerseys go waste, now is it?
While most Volunteer fans were satisfied with "hanging in" with No. 1 Florida at the time, Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin certainly wasn't. Whether it was a show for the players or genuine frustration at "one that got away," Kiffin was visibly upset as he walked purposefully off Florida Field and into the locker room.
Sitting at 1-2 after the 23-13 loss, the Vols have been 2-1 since with the only loss coming due to their inability to stop Auburn running back Ben Tate. Sure, injuries on defense certainly played a major role against the Tigers, but the offense's inability to stay on the field was the real villain.
Unfortunately, Alabama and Auburn aren't all that different in one regard. The Tigers, War Eagles, Plainsmen or whatever Auburn's calling themselves today may run their offense at a faster pace than the Crimson Tide, but both believe in a power running game.
The focus must be on limiting the effectiveness of Heisman candidate Mark Ingram and forcing Greg McElroy to try and beat them through the air. Not that he can't mind you, he was a prolific high school quarterback at Southlake Carroll High School (Texas) and an EA Sports All-American.
But, Alabama doesn't use him that way. Besides, there's only one good thing that can happen when you throw the ball a lot-but there are several bad ones. Speaking of which, Tennessee needs to do some of what they hopefully force the Crimson Tide to do pass the ball (effectively, that is).
With a whole week to revel in his 20-for-27, 315-yard, four touchdown performance against Georgia, Crompton should have gotten the boost in confidence he's needed all season.
If Kiffin approaches the game the same way he did at Florida, expect Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown to move the offense primarily, but if they get into any third-and-long situations, Crompton must step up.
A victory would be huge for the program with a slate of four out of five winnable games upcoming, but another moral victory may be in the offing.
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